Saturday, July 9, 2011

We meet the Darmstadt Dribblers in the Semi Finals in 30 minutes. Last year we met the in the Semi Finals as well (RoboCup 2010) and lost with a score of 1:9...

video is here:

We are hoping this year will be different.  We arrived with the brand new DARwIn OP's that are running like champions. They are the talk of the event, and many people are wishing us luck. So far our record in this RoboCup is:

Team DARwin - UURT Humanoid Robot,    10:0
Team DARwin - AUTMan, KidSize Field C, 8:0
Team DARwin - Team Ro-PE                       8:0
Team DARwin - YRA,                                  9:0
Team DARwin - JEAP,                                10:0
Team DARwin - TKU,                                  9:0

 DARwIn won every single game by shutout but DARwIn is going against the champions Darmstadt Dribblers, the strongest team in the league.  We were hoping we would rather meet them at the finals. Wish us luck!

You're my boy CHARLI

JK and Mike were the first ones at the venue this morning. They were out testing when I arrived at 9am. CHARLI required some testing for a new goalie program.  Keyframes had to be made, offense strategy improved, and goalie code tested. Two hours before the match, a problem arose on the practice field.  After Mike fixed the localization, CHARLI was so good he consistently kicked to the center, which in and of itself wouldn’t be a problem, except that the center of the goal was where the goalie always stands. 

We had a quick team meeting and all decided that Mike would change the attack code such that CHARLI would attempt to kick off at an angle.  With an hour left to go until the match, we tested the code…no dice.  Any difference in the trajectory was not noticeable.  If we weren’t stressed out before, we sure were now.  With 20 minutes to go it was decided that we’d try the new code, and if we got down two goals, Mike would switch up to the old code with the bug and we’d hope CHARLI was having a good day.

Game time.  CHARLI attacked first. He lines up a little funny, and kicks the ball outta bounds straight away.  Crap.  Team Hephestus goes on the offensive, makes a solid dribble across the centerline, lines up again, and shoots a solid goal.  Double crap.  Now we were down one with no indication CHARLI’s code was up to snuff.  CHARLI lined up for his second try and makes a solid first dribble across the centerline dead center of the field and stops just short of the penalty mark.  I start a “Hokies” chant and fortunately got a bunch of people to join in.  CHARLI lines up well, winds up, and fires the ball into the corner of the goal.  JK leaps into the air and everyone hollers at the top of their lungs.  The match is tied up.  The remaining 3 shots at goal all go the same.  Three more shots, and three more scores.  This field is treating CHARLI right and we finish the match up 4-1.  It was the highest scoring full size humanoid ever.  I cant do the game justice in text, so we’ll get video up asap.

DARwIn had an excellent day as well, two more shutouts against his opponents.  We face are rival, Darmstadt tomorrow. They are the past champions for several years, and not a matchup we would have wanted before the finals.  If we lose, we may be able to salvage a 3rd place finish.  Wish us luck.  And GO HOKIES!

Friday Evening wrapup

DARwIn played two games last evening.  One for real, the second for funsies.  The first game was against Team Ro-Pe. It is the first matchup in the second round robins.  There are three teams in our group.  If we advance, we will be in the quarter finals. Every time we advance we are up against more challenging teams. This is a good thing, as the stiffer competition highlights bugs in the code which would otherwise go unfound.  Last night’s bug was a frustrating one, and kept causing the robots to bump into each other.  The UPenn guys are working hard to find and fix that one. The second game was another demonstration game against the Darstadt Dribblers. Unfortunately the DARwIn code was still buggy, however, DARwIn walks so well and is so robust, he held on for only a three point loss. 

DARwIn studies his code intently before every game.  

As promised...SJ on the left rocking his Mac

As well as he plays soccer, DARwIn does not play hide and seek well.   

DARwIn attempted all three technical challenges.  He was most successful in the throw in competition. In only two tries, he was able to make it to the ball accurately enough to use his new shiny gripper to pick it up.  JK and Viktor’s last minute design and fabrication job paid off.  His throw in distance was not as far as the leaders, but everyone was pleased in how well it worked. While DARwIn attempted both the obstacle avoidance and the passing challenge, he only received a few points for both. 

DARwIn sports a fancy gripper

In other news, Dr. Hong arrived today in a spectacular fashion as always.  He was quite excited to see us all, and hear first hand how we've been doing.  One thing Dr. Hong always provides for us is good food, and he delivered once again.  On last nights menu was grilled swordfish kabobs, sea bass, jumbo shrimp, and Turkish coffee.  Mike was happy.  

The Man arrives

Can you fit 6 people into a compact Turkish cab? Yes.

Dinner is served.

We raced to get back to the venue before it closed at 11pm, including a 1200 meter sprint to the front door.  Now my legs hurt.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Technical Challenge day

Today is the first and only day of technical challenges.  CHARLI will compete in the footrace at 12:15pm, and DARwIn the throw in challenge, and perhaps the obstacle avoidance challenge too.  CHARLI has some stiff competition.  He originally looked to be the fastest robot out there,  but when its not walking backwards, the RoboErectus robot can really hustle.  JK timed him last night and found it was a hair faster.  Here's hoping CHARLI can pull out an upset.

The other technical challenges are a throwin, and an obstacle avoidance. Only one or two adult size humanoid is doing the throw in as far as I can tell. In this test the robot must walk to the sideline, find and pick up the ball, and chuck it as far as it can.  JK spent a precious night before we left designing a new gripper for Lucy, one of the OP's to compete in this challenge.  SJ spent the night last night troubleshooting the algorithm for the challenge, so ideally it all comes together at 1pm.  The more points we get in the challenges the better.

In other news, once Bryce has some free time when he's not helping CHARLI practice, we'll have some videos up on youtube of the matches and some key goals.

Our RoboCup team

One of my jobs is to blog. In this picture you can see me blogging about the blog I'm blogging on my blog. 

When I say the word "blog" to much, it upsets Viktor.  Blog.

The guys take this seriously.  They are always practicing.

Taylor, the maniacal robot doctor.

Yida and Steven, computer programmers in their natural element

Somehow we don't have a picture of SJ yet.  Sorry SJ, we'll make it up to you

Thursday, July 7, 2011


It was a big day!  Today was the first day of competition, and of course everyone was excited.  So without any hesitation, here's the rundown...

The first dame of the day was DARwIn's.  He was up against the UURT Humanoids from Iran.  Fortunately, they were a no show. So we got a pass for this go around.  The match continues though, and DARwIn and Steve, SJ, Yida, and Taylor get some good practice running the robots and get valuable feedback as to their performance under the stress of the game. DARwIn scores an easy 10 goals at which point the game is called.  The team returns to the workbench to make changes to the code.

DARwIn's first real lineup comes an hour or two later.  They are up against AUTMan, another Iranian team that brought some heavily modified Bioloids to the match.  JK surmises they are only about 20% original Bioloid.  He still feels like he's pitting his two creations against one another, kinda like brawling brothers.  DARwIn takes an early command of the game and drives the ball down to the goal. AUTMan goalie dives to save it, and succeeds.  DARwIn pulls out his secret weapon, walks up to the ball, and gracefully sidesweeps the ball around the goalie and into the corner of the goal.  Everyone is impressed. Meanwhile on the sidelines, there is a flurry of activity between SJ, Yida, Taylor and Steven. One wonders how no one has a mental breakdown during the match. Later, DARwIn pulls the same move out again to hook a ball in from the corner. He finishes off the game up 8-0.

CHARLI is up next. He is in a dribble and kick competition with JoiTech, a Japanese team from the robot master Hajime's old university.  JK finds out the don't even know who Hajime is, and is relieved. Nonetheless, their robot has looked strong in practice and has made a lot of progress since arriving.  The goal of the game is for hte offender to walk back to his own penalty line, dribble the ball past centerfield, and kick a goal. JoiTech attempts first and fails. CHARLI is up next, he walks back, lines up with the ball, kicks in the right direction with a good kick only to see the ball slowly roll out of bounds to the left, ending his attempt.  Second try goes better, CHARLI dribbles successfully past centerfield, lines up.  Everyone holds their breath as CHARLI winds up, kicks, and sends the ball 6" to the left of the goal...  The following attempt sees CHARLI get tied up with the post off centerfield when he looses sight of the ball as it passes behind his shoulder. Dr. Lee suggest we increase the timeout in the program to prevent this from happening. The remaining two shots mimic the first two, one going out of bounds left, the other narrowly missing the goal.  All in all though CHARLI is the best performing robot out there, he walks stably and kicks well.  We can't ask for any more.

CHARLI's next opponent is the Delft University team. Viktor and I have some history with the Delft guys, so we are eagerly anticipating the match.  Delft appeared to be a force to be reckoned with, they easily brought 15 people and two robots with literally a truckload of stuff. Word on the street is that neither can walk though.  More importantly, will Mike's tweaks ensure CHARLI's success.  JK decides to attack first; Delft is in the goal.  Like a pro, CHARLI marches backwards and lines up for his first kick.  The kick looks good, and the ball ends up just in front of the penalty mark on the right side of the field.  So far so good.  Mike's done well.  CHARLI has only a minute now to reach the ball, lineup and kick a goal.  To me it seems like 10 seconds. CHARLI carefully walks to the ball, positions himself, winds up, and kicks a perfect corner shot!  It was beautiful. The crowd goes crazy. Video of it is here:  The rest of the match, CHARLI scores two more goals, and sends it outta bounds one more time. With all the commotion, by the end of the match, CHARLI had drawn easily 100 people to the spectator area.

pictures and video to come shortly

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Another day another Dollar, or Lira rather.

Turkey has been treating us well so far. After yesterday finished off with a fairly convincing test of CHARLI’s game strategy, everyone got a good night's rest. We all knew CHARLI was working as well as we could hope for, Mike was getting the strategy nailed down, and the DARwIn's were cruising (literally, SJ has those little guys tuned to the "t". We're hoping they'll be the fastest guys on the field).

CHARLI listens closely for instructions

The kid size lineup has been set. DARwIn will play team UUVT and the Iranian team, AUTeam, tomorrow in the first round robin. The team got seeded within the top 4 because of the good finish we had last year, so we're pleased with the lineup.

The venue was hopping again this morning. Laptops and robots are everywhere. We started testing early. It was important to get the walking tuned up so we could get a good seed in the full size humanoid league. This year the seeding is dependent on how well your robot demonstrates walking. We were the first to qualify, but decided on using a tether, rather than an untested wireless connection, and therefore we may decide to requalify later for a better seed.

CHARLI is positively glowing after his qualification

Then, another hiccup. CHARLI's powerboard is behaving erratically. Its fluctuating between 16 and 13 volts. The Robotis motors like 15 volts, but fluctuations like this mess with the gains inside the motor causing CHARLI to limp. This concerns the whole team as our new robot, SAFFIR, uses the same MuRata DC to DC converters as CHARLI. Fortunately for RoboCup, JK packed 5 extra converters, so Bryce quickly solders some replacement components up. To be honest though, these hack fixes are always a little fun, it's about as pure engineering as you can get: problem, constraints, answer. All that's missing is quad-ruled paper.

Bryce doing his thing

JK feeling sassy, "Oh no you did-n't"

Day one at the RoboCup Venue

Today started off much the same as yesterday, with a breakfast full of Turkish cheeses and fresh bread; except this morning everyone was anxious to get the robots and tools packed up and hike over to the convention center. We braved the Turkish sun to arrive with smiles on our faces at the venue feelin pretty good.  JK could barely contain himself he was so excited.

Hard not to feel like a boss when you're rollin in with this kinda gear

What you should all know is that Mike is pretty much the man.  He was up late last night preparing CHARLI's attack algorithm until Viktor convinced him to get some sleep.  Today he's been furiously coding the rest of the game play and battling with Color Lookup Tables.  These tables need to be precisely defined so that CHARLI can make out the ball, the field, and the goals.  Fortunately is is made easier with the help of a program from UPenn.

Mike's been in the groove all day.  

Soon it was time for testing. We were all anxious to see how well CHARLI kicked.  The stronger kick he had, the better chance he has scoring a goal against his opponent.

CHARLI anxiously awaits his shot at glory

All of JK's work the past year paid off.  CHARLI made his first practice goal from his own penalty line, over three quarters the entire length of the field.  The only trouble he might have now is not kicking too hard to avoid an offside penalty on his first kick of the match.  Then all of a sudden the first failure...CHARLI's head fell off. Fortunately it was fixed quickly:

OH SNAP!  CHARLI's neck snaps during a practice run and he goes straight to the Robo-ER

Now we're having fun!

CHARLI eye's up the competition

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our first day...

Welcome to the RoMeLa's 2011 RoboCup blog! We are a team of 11 individuals, 7 from Virginia Tech, and 4 from University of Pennsylvania. Jeakweon Han, "JK", Mike Hopkins, Bryce Lee, Taylor Pesek, Viktor Orekhov, and Derek Lahr, all lead by Dr. Dennis Hong make up the VT contingent of the team. Seung-Joon Yi "SJ", Steven McGill, and Yida Zhang led by Dr. Dan Lee make up the UPenn side.

The RoboCup competition is a well-known, landmark project in the robotics communities. It presents a standard problem of working towards developing a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players that can beat the human world soccer champions by 2050. Building a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots with such abilities requires research and technological advances in many areas in robotics sciences and engineering. Contributing to these areas is necessary to improve the effectiveness and reliability of robots in the real world

We are fielding two different types of robots this year. The first is the latest evolution of the DARwIn Series robots called DARwIn OP.  This robot is an open platform (hence "OP") sponsored by NSF. DARwIn-OP was designed by RoMeLa and all design and fabrication documents are available for free to anyone. ROBOTIS is also selling it if one wants to purchase instead of making one themselves. More information about this little guy can be found here. It will be competing in the kid size league of the RoboCup competition. The anxious team of DARwIN robots include: Lucy, Scarface, Linus, Betty and DARwIn 010. 

Our second competitor is CHARLI-L2.  CHARLI is the brainchild of our talented phd student JK.  Last year in Singapore, CHARLI won third place in the adult size league. Since then though, JK has overhauled the leg design with a clever motor and gear arrangement to improve his performance.  CHARLI-L2 can walk significantly faster (0.4 meters per second!) and with more stability than last year.  We are really excited to see him in action!  

JK looking calm and collected

Packing is always an enormous affair every year we travel to RoboCup.  This year our newest PhD student Bryce Lee pulled together 8 large pelican cases worth of stuff together to accompany the robots including hand tools, spare parts, batteries, chargers, and even a soldering station.  We basically have a mobile robotics lab with all the equipment in the cases, and it will surely get put to good use in the next few days of competition.

This year the RoboCup competition is being held in Istanbul, Turkey. Travel went remarkably smooth this year considering the amount of people and equipment we were with.  We left Blacksburg in the van at 6am on Saturday morning to fly out of DC.  Two flights and close to 24 hours later we touched down in Istanbul and are working off the jetlag by preparing our robots.  JK is upstairs with Mike and Viktor tweaking CHARLI's kicking motion, Bryce has been damage proofing the DARwIns, Taylor performing surgery on Lucy, and Derek got the most important pre-competition task, finding a cheap place to eat.  Tomorrow we head to the venue for the first time to get registered and work out the pre-game jitters.  Looking forward to it! 

CHARLI participates in a group strategy meeting

and one more thing...

Happy Birthday AMERICA