When artificial intelligence breaks barriers and brings together adults and kids driven by the same passion.
Since 1997, Danish AI enthusiasts have been gathering around a robot contest called DTU Robocup, at DTU — Technical University of Denmark. Bonkers about robots might associate it to the annual international robotics competition “The Robot World-Cup Soccer” also called RoboCup. Both aiming at celebrating AI and innovation, these two events are nonetheless slightly different. Of course, the DTU Robocup has neither the size of its bigger brother, nor the same rules (nothing about football, just obstacles). But the two competitions are also different in terms of their contestants. First and foremost, DTU Robocup brings together anyone who’s interested in building robots, from sixth graders to robotic professionals.
La Grande Finale took place on 23 April 2015, at DTU Library. The library was packed with interested and cheering spectators, both children and adults.
The competition is organised every year by the department of Electrical Engineering, under the guidance of Ole Ravn.
TECHNOLOGIST How many participants have signed up this year and what’s their profile?
OLE RAVN We were glad to welcome 41 teams, which is twice as many as last year. Roughly, 1/3 comes from schools, 1/3 from former DTU students and the last 1/3 from outside, like for example a father-daughter duo.
TECHNOLOGIST What are the rules?
OLE RAVN Robots have to navigate an obstacle course and collect a maximum of 28 points on the way. Points are given when the robot crosses into each new section. Extra points can be had if the robot is able to pick up a golf ball and drop it in a hole, when it passes a guillotine safely, or by opening and closing doors. The design of the robot is of course also evaluated. It’s a marathon: the robot has to be robust enough to endure series of obstacles during two days.
TECHNOLOGIST What has evolved since 1997?
OLE RAVN The spirit is the same, but the way of building the robots has changed. Of course, the youngest participants often use LEGO bricks, but basically, sky is the limit. For instance, one contestant has used a 3D printer to build custom made parts.
TECHNOLOGIST Do you know any veteran of the competition?
OLE RAVN I do, one contestant has been participating to 10 robocups, and recently introduced his son to it. A family thing!
TECHNOLOGIST How old is the youngest robot builder?
OLE RAVN This year, our youngest robot builder is 12 years old. He passed the first semi-final and is ranked quite well in the classment. We’re looking forward to see this talented robot builder again at DTU.
Interview by Julie Boénec
The list of the the DTU Robocup 2015 winners can be found here.
Related reading : Robocup, not just fun and games.