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A Battle between Robots and Stone Age Giants


The Green Birds Successfully Take Part in Eurobot 2014

The Green Birds Team robots pursue mammoths.
The Green Birds` robots successfully managed life in the Stone Age.
The starting gun fires. Suddenly, four futuristic robots come to life. The robots take off from a green platform and gather fruits, pile up wood, and pursue huge mammoths. Robots and prey come dangerously close to one another, circle around, and furtively watch each other. The smallest of mistakes can be critical...

Eurobot – The Robotic Arena

It may sound like a scene from the latest action blockbuster, but in fact this scenario played out at the Eurobot 2014 event held in Dresden, Germany, in June. Teams from all over the world descended on the city to take part in the competition with their self-built autonomous robots. The theme for this year's event – 'Prehistobot' – took participants back to prehistoric times. In a duel lasting ninety seconds, the goal was to beat the opponent while managing to cope with everyday life in the Stone Age.

The Green Birds – Fueled by Team Spirit

Enrico Schulz, a Pepperl+Fuchs employee in the Application Engineering Development department, commenced battle as part of the 'Green Birds' team. The team is made up of students and graduates from the Hochschule Mannheim, and trainees and employees from Joseph Vögele AG and Pepperl+Fuchs GmbH. "We all have different areas of expertise, but share a passion for technology and fiddling," says Enrico Schulz. Working alongside the Hochschule Mannheim and Pepperl+Fuchs, Joseph Vögele AG was the team's main sponsor. "We see just how committed the young people are to prepare for the competition and how it pays off. As well as having a passion for technology and a creative mind, trainees are above all expected to work in a team. What's more, the competition allows our trainees to also expand their professional skills," explains Thomas Bayer, Head of Training for Electrical Engineering at Joseph Vögele AG.

With the two robots 'Big' and 'Small', the Green Birds achieved the best result in their team`s history.

The Robots – From Lego to Automation

Once the details of the competition were announced, the teams had six months to develop a robot and an optional auxiliary robot. "It took nearly 1500 hours to develop our two robots, 'Big' and 'Small,'" says Enrico Schulz. But how did the initial idea evolve into the finished robot? His answer is surprising: "We start off by fashioning possible designs out of Lego." As well as mechanical challenges, the team had a further hurdle to overcome: The robots had to operate with artificial intelligence. Given the increasingly challenging tasks, creativity, ingenuity, and the right sensors all played a critical role.

The R2000 UHD Laser Scanner – Everything in View

The R2000 UHD laser scanner truly guaranteed the machines' success.
The R2000 UHD laser scanner truly guaranteed the machines' success.

Hidden in the inner workings of the robots, the R2000 UHD laser scanner (also known as 2-D LiDAR sensor) from Pepperl+Fuchs truly guaranteed the machines' success. "With its unique scanning angle of 360°, we were the only team who could see the entire playing field – and the first team ever to achieve this," Schulz explains. Equipped with this technology, the Green Birds were able to see exactly what their opponents were doing and then analyze this information. This was a huge advantage considering that collisions with competitors are strictly prohibited. In addition to the R2000 UHD, the team also used other sensors from Pepperl+Fuchs. The R2 thru-beam sensor played a very important role at the 'fire areas' on the playing field. The aim here was to use the sensor to detect the triangles located on the playing field. Each team had to turn the triangle that matched their own team color and deposit it on the designated platform – the fire area. Once this task had been completed properly, the team was awarded points.

The Next Step – Dethroning the World Champion

48 teams rose up to this and other challenges at the event in Dresden. The Green Birds finally met their end during the quarter finals. After an exciting duel, they narrowly lost the game to the French serial world champion who ultimately went on to lift the trophy once again. The Green Birds are pleased with seventh place and the best result so far in the team's history. However, the team is not about to rest on its laurels. "We were very close and have given the French a real scare. Next year we will be back again. Every winning streak has to come to an end," notes Enrico Schulz with a knowing wink.