The Space Odyssey
Visitors from a faraway galaxy, Science and Technology have discovered a new
star around which six planets orbit. This is a great opportunity for them to
explore these new worlds. But Science and Technology disagree about how to
explore them. Therefore, they make a deal – whoever conquers the most
celestial bodies with its flags flying as high possible in 1 minute 30 seconds
will have the right to impose its exploration method! The 4th annual contest
took place on May 25-27, 2001, in La-Ferté Bernard, France. We were there with
Among the new
participants there was also the Czech Republic, represented by a group of
students from the Charles University
Prague, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Eurobot has started as a French-only competition, only later going
international. The tradition can be still seen in the Frech National Cup that
lasts several days. Out of 170 were the best 3 chosen.
The international part was not that massive with “only” 20 teams which allowed
a game system consisting of two rounds. During the first round all the
qualified teams (the ability to place a single flag on an arbitrary planet without
opponent interfering was required) were divided into three groups of six. In a group
each team played five matches against the other teams in the group collecting point
for flags placed and matches won. At the end of the first round each team had been
assigned a rank. The second round was a play-off where the winner continues
with the other winners until only one is left.
The behavior of our robot Alena
can only be explained
by the Murphy's laws. The day we arrived to the La-Ferté nothing had worked. Alena
was not even able to qualify because just the look of the judge gave her such an
epileptic seizure that the flag got thrown far away. We had found the problem later
on. The communication bettween the master AVR chip and the slave chip driving the hand
was to blame. But we discovered this only after wasting a whole day while looking
for a suitable computer that we could use (no, we did not have our with us) and
the overall work place preparation. After a fix and successful demonstration
Alena gained her first fans. The interest attracted mainly its simplicity with
Palm computer as the main processing computer and the hand design allowing to place
flags on the 40cm high sun and at the same time on the lower planets.
We had reached the goal that we had set a long time back home — to succesfully
qualify to the contest and represent our country and university in a way that
we would not have to feel ashamed. But as we say “with the food the appetite
grows” (sorry, I do not know what would be a proper English translation). We felt
that we could do even better. Working hard on the robot we fried our AVR programmer
(the chip, not the person) and the whole contest seemed to be over even before it
started. Luckily the atmosphere of the contest is very friendly and as soon as others
discovered that we are in serious trouble we were offered a help. The help resulted
in two chips for our programmer free of charge from the parts supplier working
in the contest area (cannot remember the name) and two French teams offering to
program these chips for us. We were back on the trail!
But we were certainly not the only ones having problems. Probably the most significant
example is the famous Boston MIT that brought a very nice robot with a clever design
and even better strategy. Too bad that the robot was not able to operate reliably.
The team gave up in the middle of the contest. The problems followed also the team
from Norway that was using vision as a main sensor. We managed to defeat both teams
despite the unfortunate fact that once the flag stick on the and was not therefore
placed on the sun. This was caused by the artificial smoke used by the TV staff. All
the rubber items were really sticky because of it.
The first round of the contest turned out relatively good for our team.
managed to place at least one flag in each of
the matches and out of five matches won two. You can see the results
The last match with the M&M's
team ended up in a rough collision with the Frech robot which almost knocked
Alene upside down which in turn was cause of the fiasco at the beginning of
The second round started with 16 teams under the close watch of the French TV channel
M6. Our first opponent was Germany. A moment of thrill, 3, 2, 1… judge's whistle,
the starting strings are pulled, the German robots are all over the playing field.
There is no sign of life on Alena. Not a single movement. Dead robot. The fury combines
with a grief. Outrage. Nobody has a clue as to what has just happened. Perplexed
looks in the cameras and “let's get out of here”…
This time the hardware was the cause. The crash during the previous match
loosen one of the communication (yes, communication again!) wires bettwen the AVR
and the Palm computer. The Palm computer therefore didn't get the message that
the starting string was pulled, so nothing happened.
As the La-Ferté Bernard is a beautiful small city I could not resist to post several
pictures taken while walking around. If you have found this contest interesting,
do not hesitate to contact us