Jun 5, 2014 | Atlanta, GA
Is the idea of a team of full-sized, humanoid, soccer-playing robots something from your greatest dream, or wildest nightmare?
Either way, the RoboJackets, a student group focused on robotics, are hard at work trying to bring this and other robo-feats to reality.
This weekend, a team of RoboJackets travels to Rochester, Michigan, for its first competition of the summer at the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC). In this event, autonomous robots built by college students from around the world face off in an outdoor obstacle course.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit international community,” said Ben Nuttle, RoboJackets president and a computer science major. “We meet up and compete against a lot of the same people all the time.”
In IGVC, robots are designed to respond to obstacles in real-time, without any human interference. The RoboJackets employ stereoscopic cameras and several other technologies to get their robot through the course.
Later this summer, the RoboJackets will also send a team to RoboCup, where groups compete in varying leagues with robots designed to focus on specific robotics aspects or functions as they relate to playing soccer.
“We simplify the dynamics and mechanical challenges to really focus on things like intelligence, coordinating passing plays, and how you would strategically play a soccer game,” Nuttle said. “The emphasis of the competition is really on who has the best software.”
The RoboJackets also develop custom hardware from scratch — though the competition itself emphasizes software. Other behind-the-scenes work addresses hardware maintenance and upgrades, including the design and construction of custom control boards and new mechanical subsystems. At RoboCup, RoboJackets compete in the small-scale league, deploying small, omnidirectional robots that use custom radio signaling to play as a team. In the medium- and large-scale leagues, robots are closer to human size and focus on other aspects of mobility and intelligence. This year’s competition, which takes place July 17–29, serves as an encore to the actual World Cup, which takes place in Brazil June 12 – July 13.
While one RoboJackets team is in Brazil, another will be in Ontario from July 25–26, competing for the first time in the International Autonomous Robot Racing Challenge (IARRC).
The RoboJackets have been fielding robotics teams in various competitions since 1999, and in addition to participating in the three summer competitions, the group also hosts a FIRST Robotics Competition, where team members serve as mentors for high school students, and fields a team for BattleBots.