On the way to Mexico

picture of Darwins flying towards Mexico

Finally the stress of the preparation is past and the actual World Cup stress can begin.

This morning at 8:30 our robots mounted a plane together with their six-headed team of staff.
At first they went to Amsterdam and from there they flew over the Atlantic Ocean towards Mexico-City where they will be participating at the RoboCup2012 World Cup in the Humanoid Kid-Sized League.

The World Cup is already a success, simply alone to the fact that it got possible for us to participate. The international RoboCup-competition is a unique chance to have a real exchange of experiences with other teams, compare the own skills with those of other teams and learn from each other.
Although the competition itself is not the most important aspect to achieve this, naturally it provides a huge motivation for research and certainly quite a lot of fun for the participants too.
Of course we will try our best to reach a good place, even though this is our first World Cup.

As here is not enough space to individually thank all the people and institutions that have supported us in the last weeks – and the list would inevitably be incomplete, we say an overall thank you to the Department of Informatics at the University of Hamburg whose members and friends have supported us in various ways in the last weeks so that our participation at the World Cup succeeds.

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We are in the know

Out of the blue they were there. Three customs officers with a serious look on their faces approached us and took our robots. We were asked to follow them! In a separate room an officer produced a rod and moved it along the robot. Afterwards the beeping machine …

And then we suddenly got a private photo appointment for GLaDOS. After we described the officers the amazing thing we planned to do with the robots we were allowed to take a picture on a seperate X-ray machine.

So this is how GLaDOS looks on a X-ray. You can even see a missing screw if you look closely. Thus it seems as if we have to acquire a X-ray machine too soon ­čśë

Now quickly written down our website for the customs officers and then on to the Boarding Gate – A39.

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New member for the Bit-Bots

The World Cup is no longer far away, on friday our 4 robots together with the WTM substitute and their 6-headed human team of staff will board a plane and head towards Mexico where they will compete against teams from all over the world and collect very important experiences in robot soccer.
This means a lot of work for everyone involved and amongst other things a bit of suffering for our website.

But enough of the gibberish – did I say 4 robots?
Dead on time (no exaggeration) a fourth player did reach us. Just in time to be declared at customs has the robot, whose sponsorship this time kindly was assumed by the TAMS Group, arrived.

To illustrate our joy we have made the following video for you which shows the “birth” of the new Darwin.

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A tip for all DARwin-OP owners:

Remove the USB-back-cover from the fit-PCi2 Main-Controller!

The reason is, that this back-cover is just clipped on and can get loose from repeated crashes of the Darwin.
What happens next is that you have a quite large metal-clamp rolling around between the CM-730 Sub-Controller and the mainboard, randomly short-wiring the circuits on the board. We are suspecting at least one of our two board losses to be caused by this loose cover.

Picture illustrating the USB-backcover position
Here you can see the Position of the USB-backcover on the mainboard

To remove the USB-back-cover, simply open the Darwin (use the “Assembly-Manual”) and get to the mainboard. Then carefully clip it off using a flat screw-driver without damaging the board. The USB-Ports will remain fully functional and the chances of your Darwin getting a “heart attack” are reduced drastically.
Picture showing the back-cover of the USB-Port and the USB-Port after removing
The Backcover shortly after removal from the USB-Port

Don’t forget to take the necessary measures to avoid static and take note that the whole Darwin upper chest is attached in a way to the lower body, so that the whole upper body with the CM-730 would crash onto the mainboard as soon as you undo the second last screw when the Darwin is in a “sitting” position. It is the best to handle him laying flat on the table even though this takes more space.

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#1 is alive!

After our number 1 had to suffer a long, serious illness due to a singed mainboard, we were finally able to reassemble Glados and put him back into operation on wednesday thanks to a hastily obtained replacement mainboard.
Four Bit-Bots, one of them inactive, one on the subs bench

We were so happy about it, that we completely forgot to immediately upload a video proof. For compensation, we now have added some music. “Believer” really is a fitting composition, as the moment of the resurrection of Glados took us back in believing in a successful World Cup. ­čÖé

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A tidy house, a tidy mind

…this is true even for computer scientists.
As of late every component has its own defined place. All small parts are sorted into boxes, with one box for each robot, so that we know exactly which part of the casing, which screw and which cable belongs to which robot. This is especially very useful for the storage of temporary removed parts.

picture of the newly organized locker in the lab
Now everything is sorted into boxes and "idiot-proof" labelled.

We have sorted the screws (there are wisely a lot of them included in delivery as replacements) into screw-boxes, labelled each screw-category with one of our inventory numbers and added that into the database. The boxes are labelled too with an added print-out of the overview of screws from the “Assembly-Manual” next to a table which translates the Darwin-classification for screws (S1-S17 + N1) into our inventory numbers.

Our screw-box
Now it shouldn't be hard to have the right screw at hand in the right moment
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Backup from WTM

Yay we got reinforcements! The Knowledge Technology Group (WTM) has kindly lend us their Darwin for the World Cup in Mexico. This marks the first time for us to have an external substitute.
3 Bitbots, 2 of them are inactive, another robot joins the 3
With a little bit of luck it could be that GLaDOS and maybe Atlas too will be fit again, which would mean that we would have 3 or even 4 robots we could take to Mexico.

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Oh oh…

First the good news: Suddenly we have all the replacement motors we wished for.
Now the bad news: This is due to the fact that we only have one game-ready robot at the moment.

3 Bit-Bots, two of them damaged

Originally we had planned to work on the “animations” and on our “walking” today and therefore had met at 10:00 this saturday. But as soon as we realized that we could not boot Atlas, we knew that the day would not be as expected. We do not want to speculate about the exact reason here, but by now we suspect that the mainboard from Atlas does not want to play along anymore. Unfortunately this is the second-worst part that can break on a Darwin, just right after the even more difficult to obtain subcontroller.

All this comes at the most inconvenient time one could imagine: only a few weeks before the World Cup. With 2 of 3 robots it would still be possible to compete against another team, however with only one player we could have the best program and would still not stand a chance.

Of course this is no reason for us to give up! Currently we are feverishly working on the fast acquisition of the required replacements and are confident to get them (with support through the department) in time for the World Cup.

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Darwin…

It is not easy to work with the Darwins. Frequently they are just not focusing on their work and doing games instead.
But see for yourself:

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First training for the Throw-In Challenge

Recently “Wheatly” was working hard to train for the Throw-In Challenge.
Currently he still has some trouble with his footwork, but the responsible physician Dr. Olli is confident that he will be fine after some loosening-up exercises.
Initial the throwing range was just about one meter, but after a few exercises and support by his trainers the range could be increased to more than 2.5 meters. Some exceptional throws even rolled just outside the field.
Of course we secretly filmed the training:

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