RoboCup Team 2010: Singapore
2010 RoboCup World Championship: Singapore
Our RoboCup Soccer Team has once again been hard at work now for several months, preparing their robots and programs for this prestigious event. Endless lunchtimes spent working on their game have now come to fruition…this is the big one!
The RoboCup World Championship is a huge event, this year taking over the Suntec City Convention Center in Singapore. Several thousand people took part in the event, with both senior teams from universities around the world and over one thousand junior participants representing many different countries.
Day one: Thursday
We met up at Manchester Airport after lunch, ready for the gruelling 16 hour journey to Singapore. The first leg of the journey was a 1 hour and 30 minute "hop" to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. After a three hour wait, we boarded the flight for the next stage of our expedition: a 12 hour non-stop flight to Singapore.
Day two: Friday
The long stage! We spent all day travelling (thanks to the 7 hour time difference), arriving just after 6.00pm local time at Changi Airport, Singapore. A shuttle bus then took us to our hotel, Fort Canning Lodge. This was opposite a park, so some of our rooms had a splendid view!
Day three: Saturday
This day presented an opportunity for sightseeing and recovery from our long journey. In the morning we explored an area of primary rainforest - the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Singapore, despite being a city state, has large areas of protected green space, and the government makes every effort to preserve the wildlife in these areas. We walked up to the highest point on the Singapore Island, then descended through the rainforest, observing many unusual flora and fauna. We then ate lunch in a food court - a typical Singaporean eating place, where diners sit in a communal dining area, surrounded by market stalls from which meals can be purchased. In the afternoon, we paid a visit to the Singapore Science Centre - a fascinating science and technology museum, where we also had the opportunity to take in a travelling exhibition by the computer animation company Pixar.
Day four: Sunday
This was the registration and setup day for the competition. Registration was much smoother than last year, with the organisers managing to spell the College's name correctly this time! The teachers were not allowed in the teams’ work area, so had to occupy their time in the "Mentors’ Lounge" or one of the numerous coffee bars. All day was spent tuning up the robots and ensuring that they functioned correctly with the light levels in the hall.
Days five, six and seven: Monday to Wednesday
These were the days of preliminary qualifying matches for the competition. The teams were grouped to make “Superteams” composed of teams from different nations, and each Superteam would share all the points they won for that day. The reason for this was to promote cooperation between the teams. The next day, the teams would be “shuffled” into different Superteams, providing an opportunity for the teams to mix more. Our team found the other nations' teams very friendly and keen to share, but language did prove something of a barrier when working with Chinese or Japanese teams who were programming in Cantonese script! Tuesday evening also provided us with the Junior Party – a massive celebration with as much food and drink as you could manage and free access to the Science Centre, Omnitheater (360° cinema), Snow City (indoor snow play centre), and a disco with a professional DJ. Catering for over a thousand partygoers was no mean feat, but the food was excellent.
As for the competition, our robots put in a competent performance and generally performed well, but ultimately our Lego Technic robots could not match the pace of teams who had used high-performance motors from radio controlled cars. We finished the competition in 11thplace out of 19 by Superteam points, just missing out on a place in the finals.
Day eight: Thursday
As we had not made it to the final matches, we spent the day playing "friendly" matches against teams of our choice. We made a point of playing other teams who had used Lego Technic parts to make their robots, and noted that the scorelines always ended up close to a draw, suggesting that the Lego-using teams are now working at the limit of what can be achieved with this kit. After some ceremonial flag-signing by teams from other nations, we finished our time at Suntec with a slap-up meal at our favorite restaurant then made our way back to the hotel to pick up our suitcases. We then made our way to Changi airport, ready for the long flight back to Europe.
Day nine: Friday
We arrived at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam at a mind-numbing 5.00am local time, after a flight where the patience of the group was sorely tested by several hours of screaming children. Our British reserve was truly tested, which was a shame because the aircraft and the flight were both very good. We finally arrived at Manchester Airport just after 9.00am, exhausted but full of ideas for how to improve our robots, and memories of a genuine trip of a lifetime. Next year’s World Championship is in Istanbul, and the experience we have gained this year should help us to further improve our robots. Bring it on!