RoboCup Team 2012: Mexico

2012 RoboCup World Championship: Mexico

This year saw our current RoboCup Team stepping outside the box...

After competing with robots based on Lego Mindstorms in previous years, the team came to the conclusion that they needed something more powerful to keep up with the competition. For the first time, the team built robots almost entirely from scratch using an Arduino Mega processor, and the type of batteries more usually found on radio controlled aircraft.

The development of the robots required many hours of hard work, with the team coming into school during the half term break to ensure they were ready in time for the World Championship.

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Eventually the robots were finished, and it was time to pack up and go...this time the location would be Mexico City.

Day 1: Sunday

The team met up at Manchester Airport, ready for departure. Our journey would take us to Mexico City, via Madrid, flying with Iberia. After some reluctant goodbyes, the team were on their way.

Day 2: Monday

Our first experience of Mexico City was arrival at Juarez International Airport. The flight landed at 5.30am local time, so the city was in darkness. A hair-raising taxi drive through the city's rush hour traffic took us to our hotel - the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, across the road from the World Trade Center (WTC).

Despite the gruelling journey, it would have been a crime not to have seen some of the sights! A minibus tour was arranged, so the team got the opportunity to see some of the sprawling favela areas surrounding the city, and the ancient Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan.

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Day 3 Tuesday

Tuesday was registration and setup day at the WTC. There was an opening ceremony, then the teams set to work reassembling their equipment and checking that the robots were fully operational. The junior teams from Europe and the Far East then met their first challenge...Mexico uses 110V AC instead of the 230V AC we use in the UK. As a result, the team's soldering iron was no longer hot enough to melt solder! A rapid trip to the nearby Sears department store by Mr Davis and Mr Swan resulted in a suitable replacement being obtained.

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Days 4, 5, 6: Wednesday to Friday

The competition began in earnest. The team put in a strong performance and kept their nerve, competing with teams from around the world, with bizarre names such as "Tequilatronics" (a Mexican team, unsurprisingly!) and "Jing'an No. 1 Forward!" (from China). It was clear that the decision to use more powerful robots had been a wise one, and the team won several games despite one of the robots behaving erratically due to an intermittent fault.

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Friday was a highlight of the trip - the teams' party took place this evening, with a disco and live music and performances by local musicians. It gave the teams an opportunity to mingle and make new friends from around the world.

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Day 7: Saturday

At the beginning of the competition, our team was put into a "Superteam", along with two other international teams. The idea is for the teams to compete together, pooling their points. Our team was paired with two other strong teams, and as a result we realised that for the first time we had a chance at gaining a prize-winning place!

Our team approached the semi-finals with fingers crossed, despite only now having half a team on the field (one of the robots was "killed" the previous afternoon due to a high-power battery being connected the wrong way round). The surviving robot put in a sterling performance - probably the best yet - but could not win when outnumbered by opponents of similar standard. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that overall we had won as many games as we had lost, and the games we won had earned huge numbers of points due to the numbers of goals we had scored.

Once all the scores were totalled up, we were delighted to find that our Superteam had come first! Our robots also received an award for presentation, so it was with great pride that our team went up to collect their trophy. This was an outstanding achievement - the first time that any UK team had done this well. Maybe the British stereotype of "men in sheds inventing things" is due for a revival! After all, the jet engine was a long time ago...

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Days 8 and 9: Sunday and Monday

The voyage home was even longer than the journey out, due to a 9.5 hour gap between flights in Madrid. The team took it as an opportunity to visit the city centre and chill out in the park with an ice cream, mulling over the successes of the previous few days.