The Flying Billards
On a flat playing field, 8 red balls and 4 black balls are randomly placed,
complying to a central symmetry. Each robot starts from one end of the playing
field and has to put the black balls in the pockets at its own side and the red
ones at the opposite side. After 1 minute 30s, the points are counted. The 5th
annual contest took place on May 10-12, 2002, in La-Ferté Bernard, France.
In the Eurobot
we were represented by two teams this time — The
Sirael Team (from last
year) of students
from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Charles University in Prague
The Short Circuit team. The second team has formed around Martin Dlouhý (at
that time in Ireland). The rest of the original team stayed home and
started working on a completly new robot called
. In the mean time has Martin infected
his surroundings with his eagerness to compete in the next Eurobot and has
built a robot called Clara
The Sirael Team
The Sirael Team was building a threded vehicle of monstrous
characteristics. According to the quote “we are as small as our goals” the
team was aiming at nothing smaller than the
IUT Ville d'Avray
– Paris X, the current
Two primary prerequisites for the victory were identified. Since the last
year's final match didn't last more than 5 seconds, the speed of the robot was
certainly one of them. The other one is a strategy that no other team uses. The
whole architecture of Barbora
conforms to these
two rules. The speed is gained by the strong
motors (more than 600W
each!) and the tracks to transform all the power into a movement. The
strategy was closely realated to the speed issue. The goal was to collect as
many balls as possible and sort them into the baskets later. The thinking
behind this was that the enemy might do the same and we would not have enough
balls and would be forced to recycle them from the baskets.
When we have arrived to France Barbora
quite finished yet. You can see how it looked like on the images. Not only that
the software was not properly tested and debuged, but the
hardware was not finished as well! Even though we had been working on it like
mad the whole week before, it was still not done. All the work that week took place
in my dorms
room. I have to thank
again to my roommates since they have been very understanding (so far
) of the electric drill at 3am and such things.
That week I was sleeping 4 hours/day average. We have decided to make the
journey to France mostly overnight so we loose as little time as possible. That
has resulted in one completly sleepless night. However that was just a mild
start. If my memory serves me right, we arrived to La-Ferté on Thursday and me
and Petr have stayed up until the end of
qualification on Saturday. Well I am not counting the two hours on Saturday morning
under the table .
Despite the monumental engagement of the whole team we have not qualified
for the main competition. As you can see even Markéta had decided that just
feeding us will not get us there so see started to work on the hardware too.
We were so tired I am surprised that we had not made more damage than good.
However when we were almost there (10 minutes after 10am Saturday)
the bateries went dead. One of the servos was broken and was consuming as
much 2A! The robot just went on the field and when picking up the ball (powering
up the spiral) the whole thing just rebooted. And the bateries were not replaceable,
nor we hade a substitute (they had to be charged while mounted in the robot).
The Short Circuits
The Short Circuits team constructed the robot Clara
using completly different assumptions — there is never enough time
to finish and debug the robot → if the robot is simplier, there is
better chance that it will work as desired. So what is the simpliest and cheapest
robot that can be built? Clara
! Oh, maybe not.
According to what I've heard the Algeria's Blibot should be just as simple,
but has won the second place! But let's get the whole story.
The Short Circuits team was getting around much better. They got qualified
on Friday already and were debuging and tuning the hardware/software nightmare
what most robot always create for their creators. They had their share too. The
bad luck was that every time they decided that the robot need a bigger
improvement, the organizators came saying that they have to be ready for a
match in 20 minutes. On Sunday they even looked them up on a breakfast saying
that they have to go compete right away. Then the motherboard got fried and
Honza had 15 minutes to replace it. Gee!
almost got to the final play-off. Actually
the guys belived it for an almost half an hour. Then team from Finland came saying
that they had been left our of the ranking paper. Too bad. But hey – now
we all can go watch the finals!
The theme of the contest promised a better show than the last year's.
Last years all of the better matches were basically decided within a few seconds.
The ability to take the balls out of the baskets again should have avoided this
allowing the fight to continue until the bell rings. That's for the theory.
The reality was vastly different. The ball manipulation proved to be a real
pain. The balls varied in shapes and sizes. Even the surface was variable. The
original balls were shiny. The rules said the shine should be taken down with
the help of some chemicals. But the friction of the surface was the single
biggest limiting factor. The friction of the original balls was pretty high.
By taking down the shiny coat the friction was reduced. The friction was
further reduced by coating the balls with a chalk dust just before the contest
(some teams complained that the balls are too shiny for the camera
The result of the hardware difficulties was that the teams spent a way too much
time on the hardware part and a little was left for an intelligent behavior.
The quality of the matches was directly proportional to the time spent on the
software, meaning that it was not as much fun to was as one would expect.
In my opinion the theme was just too difficult for the one year cycle of the Eurobot.
Approaching the last four matches the entertaining quality increased.
The Blibot team from Algeria was the big surprise being defeated only by
the all-time-champion Ville d'Avray, leaving the other French team
the third place.
Minitech and Ville d'Avray competed in the French national cup,
the Minitech defeating the Ville d'Avray. However, in the Eurobot these two
teams did not compete against each other because the Minitech was eliminated
by the Blibot, leaving behind the question if the French champion Minitech
would be able to defeat Ville d'Avray again.
So this was the Eurobot 2002. And what about
? I guess we will have to win that one
since we did not make it now
To see more pictures you can check the
(including some more pictures of us and our robot).