Joining Robocup in China

This week will be unlike any of my past experiences. I'm sitting here in Suzhou, China, 200km from Shanghai and 6000km (that's roughly 4000miles) away from my home. I arrived here with the Tech United RoboCup team from Eindhoven, The Netherlands. We're here to compete against the best teams of the world on the Robocup 2008 World Championship with mid-sized soccer robots.

Three mid-size soccer robots: The soccer ball is normal sized, the robots about 80cm high

We arrived on Saturday noon with quite some jet-lag and no more energy left than for a slow day. On Sunday morning, we visited the expo hall to check out if our robots had arrived (they were sent 4 weeks before using DHL) and to inspect the play field. It turned out that small bumps in the carpet and maintenance shafts in the floor caused unacceptable speedbumps, sometimes higher than 1cm (about 0.4 inch).

Small speed-bumps: These may cause robot omni-wheels to break when hit on high speed.

The team took initiative and with the help of the organisation most of these could be removed or reduced.

Removing speed bumps: We removed the carpet and the original floor cover.

The organisation took the responsibility to fixup all the fields in the afternoon such that we could visit the city Suzhou and learn about some of its finest cultural curiosities.

Suzhou has a long silk culture: We found out that museums with fashion shows were more than average interesting

On Monday morning, we got up early (around 6.30 local time) to find ourselves at 7h30 at the Robocup playgrounds. The robots (they're called TURTLEs, after the mascot of the team) were unpacked from their flight-cases and prepared for action.

Turtle Tuning: The turtle requires camera tuning (top), kick-tuning (front) and thorough testing after 6000km of travelling

The tuning and testing took longer than expected and we could only start testing real gameplay in the early evening. We have one day left to get the turtles in top-condition. Especially the aiming mechanism is now being perfected and gets the team's fullest attention. Both force, vertical angle and horizontal direction of a kick must be well tuned to get the ball passed the keeper.

Goal ! (without a keeper): Nicely aimed at the corner.

The first offical game is on Wednesday. 12 teams showed up and are ready to put each other up for the test. Let's hope for the best !