They may be small in size, but the University of Manitoba’s SnoBots won big at the 2013 FIRA HuroCup robotics competition held in Kuala Lumpur. FIRA is the world’s oldest humanoid robotics competition and its HuroCup is one the most challenging. A single humanoid robot must compete in an octathlon of events – including an obstacle run, weight lifting, basketball free-throws and soccer penalty kicks – that tests a broad range of skills central to humanoid motion.
“This particular contest is very important in the research context. It’s used as a benchmark for technologies for intelligent robots that will be very useful for people in the future,” says Jacky Baltes, one of the contest’s organizers and a professor of computer science at U of Manitoba. He is also a director of the university’s Autonomous Agents Lab which mentored the SnoBots team.
The team, represented in Kuala Lumpur by students Chris Iverach-Brereton and Josh Jung, took first place in two events and placed second and fourth in two others in the kid-size division. Based on their score across all events, the team won the highly-coveted all-around prize, called the King’s class.
Dr. Baltes, who accompanied the students to Kuala Lumpur, says he was confident they had a strong team because two of the students had participated in a previous event in 2011 and gained valuable experience. It was “a real roller-coaster ride, but we managed to pull it off,” he says. The team’s previous best showing was fifth place in 2007.
The students “were extremely happy, of course, but also extremely tired” after the four-day contest, says Dr. Baltes. “They worked hard not just during the competition, but the whole year preparing for it.”
Watch some of the videos from the competition.