Carnegie Mellon's Soccer-Playing Robots Bring Home Gold, Bronze From RoboCup 2007<br><i>Other University Participants Compete in Nanogram Contest</i>

Once again, Carnegie Mellon University's teams of soccer-playing robots have 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.

Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Professor Manuela Veloso, who helped to create the RoboCup competition 10 years ago and who 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 include 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 to 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 is 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 also will be leaving Carnegie Mellon. He's going to the University of Southern California for his Ph.D. Fasola's team also includes 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 that includes 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 hail from Carnegie Mellon, while Professor Michael Lewis and Ph.D. student Jijun Wang represent Pitt. 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, Robotics Institute Associate Professor Illah Nourbakhsh and Pitt's Professor Lewis.

"Steel led throughout the competition in which teams of simulated robots search 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' newest contest, the Nanogram Demonstration League, where participants had to design micro-robots in 100-300 micrometer size. 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 electro-magnetics, while another Carnegie Mellon approach by Steven Floyd under Metin Sitti, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and robotics, used electro-magnetic field actuation. This new league is hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The agency hopes to use the competition to show the potential for building tiny devices that can be used in manufacturing, biotechnology and other industries. They also hope to develop manufacturing standards for this untapped field.

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

For more on Carnegie Mellon's activities in robot soccer, see www.cs.cmu.edu/~robosoccer/main/

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 | bspice@cs.cmu.edu