Homework? RoboCup Rocks!

This is what they call “homework” now days!  .. Lego Mindstorm NXT 2.0. WHAT?!!!
I had to do my homework first before I could play with my static Lego blocks. Kids today get to not only build cool Lego robots for homework, they also get to program up these fully autonomous Bots and pit them against others in a competition called RoboCup Junior. There are three disiplines: dance, rescue and soccer. My youngest daughter and two of her school friends entered the “RoboCup Junior Regional Competition” held in Hobart on August 21, 2011.

Programming RoboCub Bots

This is my daughter, making programming adjustments to the Bots between rounds, remaining calm despite the pressure and mayhem surrounding her. Yes, she has a broken arm. The Princess Street Primary School girls had only been working on their Bots for eight weeks – my daughter was out of action for two of those weeks. They were the youngest team in the entire competition and the only girls team to compete in the soccer discipline. Most of the other teams were from High School, some even College with members who could have up to two years experience each – a total of possibly six years for a team!

Game-on, the Semi-finals play-off.

There were fourteen teams competing in the Junior Soccer, the girls remarkably got right through to the Semi-finals, the picture above shows them playing the eventual first place winners from Hutchins, whom they actually DREW with even after over-time! The much older boys – and dare I say experienced looking at their Robots – got through on a goal count-back from the previous rounds.

RoboCup Junior Southern Tasmanian Regional presentation 2011

After a very close and exciting Finals match with the lead changing several times, the girls were unfortunately defeated to earn FORTH PLACE, but were mistakenly presented with Third place due to a mix up. An absolutely astounding result given the circumstances, well done girls!
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The girl’s teacher could clearly see my enthusiasm as I helped over the day and asked me if I’d like to mentor the girls for the up-coming “RoboCup Junior Australia” National Competition, being held in Hobart on September 24-25.

I had been interested in getting an NXT Robot for years, but didn’t know that much about them and thought of them more as an expensive toy at around $400 for a kit!
Well, now that it’s for my daughters education, what better excuse 🙂

As the teacher has gone away, we’ve been lent two NXT kits to take home and “play” with during the school holidays, as the Nationals are only 4 weeks away. The rules state a mentor (me) can’t help build or program the competing robots and the “teams work is substantially their own”. I intend to learn and build along-side them, but not with them, as they actually know more than me at this stage!

Of course, it’s up to the girls if they want to proceed in the Nationals – I see it as a fantastic opportunity for them to learn from their peers rather than compete, as the aim of the event “is to create an entertaining and educational experience for all involved. To achieve this we all must create a spirit of collaboration, rather than competition”.

More information can be found here: http://www.roboticstasmania.org 
and here: www.robocupjunior.org.au 

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One response to “Homework? RoboCup Rocks!

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