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July 11: Soccer-Playing Robots Bring Home Gold, Bronze From RoboCup 2007


Anne Watzman

Byron Spice

Carnegie Mellon's Soccer-Playing Robots
Bring Home Gold, Bronze From RoboCup 2007

Other University Participants Compete in Rescue Simulation and Nanogram Contests

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's teams of soccer-playing robots have again taken top spots at the International RoboCup Federation's 2007 RoboCup competition, which ended Sunday in Atlanta.

The CMDragons are world champions in the small-sized robot league for the second consecutive year after besting a dozen competitors. The CMDash AIBO team took third place in the legged league, which included a field of 24.

Small-Size RobotCarnegie Mellon Computer Science Professor Manuela Veloso, who helped to create the RoboCup competition 10 years ago and advises the Dragons and Dash, reported a "stressful and emotional" finish for both teams, noting that they won the critical games in penalty shots after overtime periods. Dash defeated a team from China after playing to a 3-3 tie in regulation play and overtime. The Dragons defeated a team from Thailand after regulation play and overtime ended in a 6-6 deadlock.

The CMDragons won the world championship under the leadership of James Bruce, who finished his Ph.D. in December 2006 and will soon work for Google. His robot-soccer-motivated thesis, developed under Veloso, is titled "Real-Time Multi-Robot Path Planning With Safety Guarantees." Bruce's teammates were Stefan Zickler, a second-year Ph.D. student in computer science, and research engineer Michael Licitra.

"Stefan developed a fantastic robot defense and goalie, which turned out to be particularly crucial in the final game," said Veloso. "Michael, who built last year's Dragon team robots — the best ever seen at RoboCup — helped us make history as the first winning RoboCup team to use the same robot hardware in two consecutive years."

The leader of the AIBO CMDash team was fifth-year computer science student Juan Fasola, who has been working with Veloso since he was a freshman.

"Juan has been a member of several AIBO teams that have brought home honors and trophies," said Veloso. "The CMDash'07 bronze place is his first RoboCup International trophy." Fasola will also be leaving Carnegie Mellon for the University of Southern California, where he'll pursue his Ph.D. Fasola's team included computer science students Michael Phillips, Gregory Delmar and Somchaya Liemhetcharat, who finished his senior year and will spend a year in his home country of Singapore.

"Pittsburgh Steel," a team of faculty and students from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, took first place in the second annual RoboCupRescue Simulation League, beating out nine other teams from Europe and the Americas. Robotics Institute Research Professor Katia Sycara, along with Systems Scientist Paul Scerri and first-year Ph.D. student Prasanna Velagapudi represented Carnegie Mellon, while University of Pittsburgh Professor Michael Lewis and Ph.D. student Jijun Wang rounded out the team. The simulation they used for the competition was developed by Sycara's group under a National Science Foundation Information Technology Research grant investigating robot-agent-person teams for urban search and rescue. The grant was made to Sycara, Lewis and Robotics Institute Associate Professor Illah Nourbakhsh.

"Steel led throughout the competition, in which teams of simulated robots searched for victims in disaster environments," Sycara explained. "Prasanna Velagapudi operated the robots while Jijun Wang, the simulator's developer, coded alongside, keeping Steel a step ahead of the competition."

In addition to the legged, small-sized and robot rescue competitions, the university was also represented by two teams in RoboCup's newest contest, the Nanogram Demonstration League, where participants had to design microrobots ranging in size from 100 to 300 micrometers. Electrical Engineering and Robotics Professor Gary Fedder, along with Ph.D. robotics student Fernando Alfaro and electrical engineering student Chiung Lo, presented robots powered by electrostatic actuation. Another Carnegie Mellon approach by mechanical engineering graduate students Steven Floyd and Chytra Pawashe under Metin Sitti, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and robotics, used electromagnetic field actuation. This new league is hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which hopes to use the competition to show the potential for building tiny devices that can be used in manufacturing, biotechnology and other industries. It also hopes to develop manufacturing standards for this untapped field.

Over all, Carnegie Mellon's teams faced competitors from more than 33 countries. Competitions included the four-legged AIBO league; the small- and mid-sized robot leagues; the humanoid, robot rescue and robots at home leagues; and various simulations. The goal of this effort, according to the International RoboCup Federation, is to promote artificial intelligence, robotics and other related fields by creating robot soccer teams capable of defeating the human world soccer champions by 2050. For more information on RoboCup, see For more on Carnegie Mellon's activities in robot soccer, see