In RoboCup Soccer, teams play a 2v2 soccer match with robots tracking an orange passive ball (Open league) or an infrared-emitting ball (Lightweight league) while staying within the playing area bounded in white. Robots that go out of bounds are banned from entering the match for 1 min or until a goal is scored. Matches last 20 mins long, with 10 mins halves. The team that scores the most goal wins. Robots are also constrained to a size and weight limit (which differs between leagues).
RCJ was first introduced in Singapore back in 2009, with our club only participating in the Soccer Open category. Our first taste of success came in 2011, where we managed to clinch first place in Open League B and represented Singapore at RoboCup Istanbul.
In 2018, we broke the norm and sent a junior team to Soccer Lightweight, the introductory league that utilizes an IR-emitting ball instead of an orange passive ball, in an attempt to give them a solid foundation for them to build upon as part of our training reforms. Defying all odds, the team emerged champions, with a thrilling 15-14 Finals game. That same year, we also finished 2nd and 3rd for Soccer Open. The Lightweight team went on to represent Team Singapore at RoboCup Montreal and finished 8th (Individual) despite completely rebuilding their robots from scratch in less than 2 months in order to compete internationally.
After a disappointing 2019 run and Robocup being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, we managed to obtain commendable results in the virtually held Nationals in 2021, with Team Transcendence being one of two teams selected to represent Singapore for Soccer Open at Robocup Worldwide. The team eventually came in 1st, 5th and 7th respectively in the technical challenges.
In 2022, Robocup finally returned to a physical format as Singapore’s COVID-19 situation improved. For the first time since 2011, our club emerged champions in Soccer Open, winning the Finals in a decisive 11-5 match despite facing numerous hardware problems on the competition day.
In RoboCup Rescue Line, robots navigate through an obstacle course filled with speed bumps, ramps, dotted lines and narrow underpasses to reach an evacuation room. There, the robot would need to rescue ‘victims’ in the form of balls and place them in a triangular evacuation zone within 8 minutes.
Teams score points based on how many victims are rescued and the number of tiles and obstacles they successfully navigated through. Teams are also awarded a bigger multiplier for differentiating between dead (black balls) and live victims (silver balls) and prioritising the rescue of live victims first.
In 2018, a group of JC members decided to form 2 teams, mostly made up of members with limited experience, to participate in Rescue for the first time in the club’s history.
Despite only having 2 months to prepare, the team managed to design a LEGO robot that narrowly edged out the team from NJC, ranking 1st among local teams and earning the opportunity to represent Singapore at RoboCup Montreal.
The team then went on to integrate Arduino components with LEGO for Internationals, albeit with limited success.
In 2019, another JC team placed 4th at nationals with a LEGO robot. Later on, they were fortunate enough to receive the opportunity to represent Singapore internationally yet again. Despite the short notice, the team raced to produce another hybrid robot within 1.5 months and finished 15th overall, a solid improvement from the previous year.
In 2020, members of Team Transcendence took it upon themselves to finish what the seniors had started. A fully functional, non-LEGO robot design was ready for construction and testing by Feb, but all progress came to a grinding halt thanks to Covid-19…
Even when the pandemic has led to competitions being cancelled, our work does not. We have already begun pushing for more junior members to take part in Rescue Line in order to build up a good foundation in LEGO as it drills fundamentals such as line tracking and basic mechanisms (such as the grab and lift claw to pick up the balls), which would help them significantly in preparing for LEGO competition missions.
In RoboCup Onstage, teams are to put up a 1-2 min performance mainly featuring fully autonomous robots. Such performances can include, but are not limited to, dances, art installations, storytelling and theatre. Teams are encouraged to be as creative as possible and are judged based on their creativity of their performance and technical difficulty involved in robot construction.
At the end of 2018, one JC member, Huy, decided to participate in Onstage as he felt that the category was the perfect outlet to unleash his creativity. Right after the year-end exams, he immediately begun work on a humanoid robot companion, called Eve. Initially, the team choreographed and ‘hard-coded’ (pre-programmed) the entire performance, which worked well enough to win first place at the Singapore Open in our club’s first showing in this category.
For internationals, more help from other club members were enlisted to work on other robots.
The team added robotic legs to make Eve more human-like and worked on an image processing program which would allow Eve to mirror the movements of a person via a laptop webcam, removing the need to ‘hard-code’ the dance moves beforehand.
The team also produced a guitar playing robot, Geeta, which is able to pluck specific notes and play a simple musical piece according to a photo.
This incorporation of artificial intelligence and image processing gave Team Plus Ultra the edge over others and they emerged as World Champions at Sydney Internationals 2019. (check out their one of their runs in the video below)
“Since this is our first time participating in this category, we hope that this award will inspire our juniors to venture into new arenas and overcome unforeseeable challenges.”
Huy’s journey into RoboCup Onstage has raised many eyebrows along the way, with many of us initially casting doubts on the legitimacy of his ‘wild’ ideas. However, his determination and unique take on robotics has singlehandedly changed our view on Onstage and revealed untapped potential in this area of robotics. Even if no juniors want to continue his ‘legacy’ in Onstage, we hope that all members can at least embody his spirit of being unafraid of preconceived notions and have the courage to try something unconventional, which would help move the club forward in the 21st century.