Students at a recent robot soccer competition. Rose-Hulman
uses platforms such as advanced LEGO kits to teach systems
design. Here, students and professors surround the Dynamo
robot as it prepares to eject a ping pong ball onto the
table-top soccer field toward the goal. A robotic competitor
awaits to attempt to block the shot.
worked independently on their robotic platform, though the
design was the same for both teams,” explained Professor
Moore. Students accomplished this despite any linguistic
and cultural barriers that popped up.
Professors equipped the soccer robot teams — made up
of both freshmen and juniors — with LEGO Mindstorms
Education NXT Base Sets and Education Resource Sets, as
well as Nintendo Wiimotes. Between all these, the students
had LEGO parts, a computer, optical, ultrasonic, and touch
sensors, and multiple gears and motors.
Professors afforded students the opportunity to use
the Wiimotes to control the robots while playing offense
(attempting to shoot soccer goals in the net). Otherwise,
the robots were completely autonomous. The rules did not
permit Wiimote use when teams were playing defense.
The students also could not touch their robots during
The students could use their laptops to program the
Wiimotes via Bluetooth connectivity. “The LEGOs are not
natively compatible with the Wiimotes. Students used their
laptops as a central communications node between the
Wiimotes and the LEGO-based bots,”
stated Professor Voltmer.
The professors set rules of
utilization and engagement for the
robots and the soccer matches. “We
lay out the rules each term and say,
this is the problem you have to solve.
As you solve it, we are going to talk
about system’s design — that robots
and the competitions are the vehicles
for the freshmen and junior level courses in systems
design,” Professor Voltmer continued.
The instructors also set design rules. “We have a design
review and a design freeze during which time student’s
designs will be revealed. The design freeze helps ensure
that students — after seeing others designs — won’t be able
to change their own to better compete with the other
robots,” commented Professor Voltmer.
Last term, the soccer problem surrounded this offensive
and defensive play. The competition itself was a double
elimination tournament. During each match, one robot and
team would play offense, while another played defense.
The Paranoid Android robot blocks a ping pong soccer ball
shot in a recent competition at Rose-Hulman.
A close-up shot of a LEGO-based
ping pong competition robot.