Aug. 6, 1999 ITHACA, N.Y. -- They didn't sing the old Cornell University football song "See them plunging down to the goal," but the school's Big Red team became champions of world robot "soccer" today (Aug. 4, 1999) when they beat a highly regarded German team 15-0 in the finals in Stockholm, Sweden.
The event, called the Robot World Cup Initiative, familiarly known as RoboCup, pits teams of tiny but incredibly smart robots against each other. In the final, Cornell's team -- the first the university has fielded in the 3-year-old competition -- played the FU-Fighters from the Free University of Berlin in a match carried live on Swedish television and streamed live on the World Wide Web. One observer called the Cornell victory "a drubbing."
The Big Red was competing in the "small" league, in which robots are about 6 inches in diameter and the playing field is the size of a regulation table-tennis table.
RoboCup was created to foster research in robotics and artificial intelligence. Competitors must design robots that will operate as a team and build vision systems to enable the robots to detect the ball and distinguish between their own players and their opponents. The robots must also be able to decide on the best moves to put the ball into the other team's goal.
A team consists of five robots, communicating with their "mother" computer and with each other by radio. A video camera surveying the playing field tells the central computer where the players and the ball -- a golf ball -- are. Individual robots also can have on-board sensors. Once programmed, the robotic system is completely on its own, with no remote control by human operators.
The Cornell system uses two computers, one to process information from the video camera and another to decide on strategy based on the video information. The Cornell robots are about 7 inches tall and weigh about 2 kilograms. They are driven by a 17-watt motor powered by a 9-volt battery and can reach a speed of 2 meters per second in 0.7 seconds.
Unlike many robots in the competition, they have a spring-loaded "kicker" mechanism that can be used in special situations, in addition to bumping the ball. The goalie is a slightly different design, capable of moving rapidly from side to side.
The Big Red's road to the finals began last Thursday with a 2-1 victory against a team fielded by the South Korean high-tech firm Robotis, winners of the South Korean championship and heavy favorites in RoboCup. Continuing in the early round-robin play, Cornell defeated Portugal 8-0 and New Zealand 33-0. In the quarterfinals on Monday, the Big Red routed a team from Temasek Engineering School in Singapore 20-1 to reach to the semifinals, where the Cornell robots advanced to the final by beating a Singapore team from Ngee Ann Polytechnic 6-2.
In preparation for the competition, Cornell developed two competing teams, known as Team Brazil and Team Italy. In a match played on the Ithaca campus in May, Team Brazil defeated Team Italy 4-0 and earned the right to travel to Stockholm. Thereafter, the best features of both team's designs were incorporated into the final robots.
One reason the Big Red has been so successful, according to faculty adviser Bart Selman, associate professor of computer science, is that the team is made up of a mix of graduate and undergraduate computer science, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering students. "Most teams are from computer science departments," Selman said.
Faculty advisers to the team, in addition to Selman, are Raffaello D'Andrea, Cornell assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who coaches the team, Jin-Woo Lee, visiting lecturer in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Norman Tien, assistant professor of electrical engineering.
The final RoboCup team was composed of Dennis Huang (team leader), Salman Qureshi, Mike Smullens, Thomas Karpati, Jason Oversmith, Alexander Lau, Alex Sepulveda, William Hegarty, Syaril Hussin, Charles Poon, Aris Samad-Yahaya, Christopher Lau and Aaron Delfausse.
Contributing to the design from Team Italy were David Hsu (team leader), Yooki Park, Scott Aaronson, Thibet Rungrotkitiyot, Ryan Hansen, Ray Chang, Harry Cuadrado, Lars Cremean, Ted Hwang, Livingston Cheng, Andrew Hoffman, Lance Hazer, Emily Winston and Stephen Chang-Chi Kao.
Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.
-- The RoboCup Competition site: <http://www.robocup.org/>
-- Cornell RoboCup team site: <http://www.mae.cornell.edu/Robocup/intro.html>
-- Live video from the competition: <http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/robocup/0,1518,31410,00.html>
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