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Archive for April, 2010

NFL veteran kicker versus a Robot kicker.. who will win?

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Credit goes to Erik Malinowski from Wired Online

Ziggy, the robot kicker

Ziggy, the robot kicker

SAN FRANCISCO — It was an exhibition unlike any other. Inside San Francisco’s breezy Kezar Stadium stood Joe Nedney, a 14-year NFL veteran and kicker for the San Francisco 49ers, just inside the right hash mark. And dead straight away from the field goal posts at the stadium’s west end was Ziggy, a 340-pound, nitro-powered robot that knocks through 60-yard field goals with, as the event coordinators described it, “dead-on accuracy.”

The idea behind Monday’s exhibition was to promote the 7th annual RoboGames competition, being held this weekend at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. But the attention was not on super-heavyweight bots like Ziggy (who’ll likely be defending its gold medal) but squarely on the spectacle of whether a NFL kicker can outperform a steel-toed bot that can flip his opponents 12 feet in the air.

Before Nedney arrived with practice balls in tow, CM Robotics engineer Mike Phillips was hastily warming up Ziggy and trying to get its psi levels straightened out. Ziggy’s tank pressure tops out at 2,200 psi, and the bot was soon hitting 30-yard field goals using 1,600 psi.

“He is a rookie after all,” said Phillips, craftily playing the expectations game with the two dozen media personnel that had congregated around the bot, which more resembles a flattened skateboard ramp than a field goal-kicking pro.

Media members were encouraged to try their mettle against the metallic Ziggy, but either few were feeling courageous enough on this day or Ziggy’s prowess in warmups had simply left everyone agape.

Full disclosure: I, too, was contemplating testing my non-existent kicking skills against Ziggy, but it so happens that I’m currently reading Stefan Fatsis’ fantastic book A Few Seconds of Panic, which chronicles his immersion with the 2005 Denver Broncos as a rookie kicker. Needless to say, once I realized how much actually goes into being a kicker, it would have been insulting to even imitate such a thing.

“I don’t want to get shown up too bad by a robot,” said Nedney upon arriving and getting a first glance at his formidable, footless opponent. “I got challenged, and you can’t pass up on a challenge. Anytime I hear I hear about someone — or something — that can kick a field goal, I got to come check it out.”

Nedney said he didn’t feel threatened going into the contest. “Robots aren’t legal in the NFL, so I feel like my job security is safe with the 49ers. But if he outdoes me too bad, it might not look too good on the job description.”

After Nedney won the coin toss — correctly calling tails as Ziggy’s 2009 RoboGames gold medal was flipped high above the grass – he chose to go first. Both competitors placed their balls at the 20-yard line (making for a 30-yard kick, counting the end zone), and the first kicker to miss two would be the loser.

Though Nedney deadpanned that he’d “been working half [his] life to do this thing, and this guy comes out here and builds a machine that can outkick a human,” he quickly proved he was up to the challenge:

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With Ziggy and Nedney nailing their first kicks, both competitors moved back 10 yards, which proved no problem for the San Jose State product. Nedney’s ball sailed over the crossbar with perhaps 10 yards to spare. Maybe it was the pressure of competition getting to Ziggy – er, rather his handler, Phillips – but all of a sudden, Ziggy started to choke. He missed his first attempt from 40 yards out, short and to the right. After some huddling, Team Ziggy then managed to just clear its next attempt. Moving back then another five yards, Nedney couldn’t help but engage in a bit of gamesmanship and chat with Phillips about the

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ball placement on Ziggy’s kicking/flipping element. The next attempt from 45 yards out, with Ziggy now kicking more toward the lower portion of the ball, soared into the cloudy sky and thumped down about 12 yards short of the goalposts.

“Maybe you should go back to Plan A,” Nedney conceded. “Better to have it look ugly and go through then look good and not.”

By now, Phillips was able to get Ziggy kicking at 2,000 psi – the highest CM engineers would crank it — and the bot finally punched it through from the 35-yard line. Moving back another five yards, everyone in attendance could sense this would be the defining distance. And though the morning had started out with nary a breeze, an intermittent headwind was now blowing in from Golden Gate Park to the west. Advantage: Nedney.

After a couple of misses from both, it was decided that Nedney and Ziggy would kick simultaneously from the 40-yard line. Taking into account Ziggy’s earlier initial miss, a Nedney make coupled with a Ziggy miss would clinch victory for Team Homo Sapien.

In the end, it was the intangibles that carried Nedney to victory. The nasty headwind that swirled over the west end of Kezar illustrated just the kind of unpredictable factors that every pro kicker must account for when immersed in a fast-paced NFL game and the ever-merciless 40-second play clock. Sure, a robot wouldn’t feel the pressure of 80,000 screaming hometown fans, but it also couldn’t account for wind, a botched snap coming into the holder, or myriad other things. “He could probably take all the boos from the fans and the ridicule by the media with a pretty straight face. He probably wouldn’t go to bed upset about it,” admitted Nedney with a grin. “This Ziggy’s got quite a poker face.”

Written by Vu Nguyen

April 22nd, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Posted in General News

National Robotics Contest grabs interest in engineering

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A Robotics Competition located in Marion, Ohio has been generating so much interest in the community, that it has grown to feature more than 900 participants from 60 different schools with 400 entries.

Take a look at the video below to see the highlights:

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The event started as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Robotic Technology and Engineering Challenge in 1986.

“We want them to learn technology,” said Ritch Ramey, director of contest judging. “This is their Olympics, their football, basketball. They spend all year on these robots.”

Participants say they compete because of an interest in engineering and robotics. Advisers and sponsors say stirring such an interest is key because it encourages students to enter careers in science, math, technology and engineering.

“It’s because of the engineering mindset that is behind robotics,” said Noreen Nichols of Honda Inc., which helped fund the program and sent 22 employees to judge. “We want students to apply those skills. It is something very important to our business.”

Grant Middle School student Robby Stoneburner competed in a non-tactile maze contest and a mini-sumo robot competition. He described this year’s maze contest as a “complete failure” after a new kit he got for Christmas didn’t do as expected.

That didn’t dampen his spirits.

“It’s exciting. A little scary, but it’s exhilarating,” he said about what it is like to compete. “You don’t know who will have what.”

Taft Elementary School fourth-grader Savion Tyler said he wanted to learn new things. He also wanted to focus his competitive nature.

“We didn’t do so well in the maze,” said Tyler, who said he did better in an ag-bot competition. “But we keep our heads up.”

His brother Seth Tyler and Drake Ross-Facione, also Taft students, said they cheer and pray before they compete.

Upper Sandusky Middle School student Ashley Cano said the competition can be a bit nerve-wracking.

“There’s so many people watching,” she said. “If something goes wrong it’s embarrassing.”

Ramey said things do go wrong. That should be expected.

“It won’t always work on your deadline,” he said.

Ramey said such a competition encourages children to be problem solvers.

“This is what this country needs, to be innovative,” he said.

John Larkin, a judge and adviser, said he hopes

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students learn the basics about interchangeable parts and other engineering skills. He said a knowledge of standards is still needed.

Larkin said it’s important to encourage children to want to build and be innovative as the country will continue to need skills such as manufacturing. He said if the United States slacks, other countries would be eager to fill the void.

“We will be a bedroom country, not a (bedroom) community,” he said.

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Source:
Excerpts from: Marionstar.com

National Robotics Challenge website

Written by Vu Nguyen

April 21st, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Posted in General News

6 Cool Robotics Articles

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National Robotics week was last week so there were a large number of very interesting Robotics Articles published recently. We found that few that we thought were very interesting. Take a look below:

1.       So, How Real are Robots? – CNN

Think robots exist only in sci-fi?  You won’t after a quick chat with Noel Sharkey.  The professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield in the UK says robots already fold clothes, watch children, feed older people, fight wars, surveil cities, dismantle bombs, answer questions from tourists, aid surgeons, clean floors and provide companionship…

2.       Five Robots We Wish Were Real … and Five We’re Glad Aren’t – CNN

It’s National Robotics Week, a time when students, scientists and others in the technology community celebrate the increasingly important role that real-world robots are playing in our lives.  Militaries use robots to attack enemies and destroy land mines. Private companies sell robots that let their users see, hear and talk remotely…

3.       NASA, GM Team Up to Build Second Generation Space Robot – CNN

The next generation of space robot is here.  It looks like an astronaut in a spacesuit, with a head, a torso, two arms and two hands that can grasp and hold objects just like a human hand.  Its name is R2, short for Robonaut 2. And it’s heading to the International Space Station aboard the space shuttle Discovery in September…

4.       Push on to Protect New Troops from IEDs – USA Today

The Pentagon is scrambling to provide the latest handheld mine sweepers and observation balloons to detect makeshift bombs for the thousands of additional troops President Obama has ordered to Afghanistan…

5.       Getting Wired at the Robot Block Party – CNET News

As part of the inaugural National Robotics Week, Stanford University hosted a Robot Block Party Wednesday, where locals could showcase cutting edge robotics technology and their own personal projects, including robots that drive cars, climbs walls, and help perform medical procedures.  National Robotics Week is an event organized by the Robotics Caucus of the U.S. Congress and leading robotics companies, and schools to give more exposure to the resources and ideas around

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robotics research and education…

6.       FIRST Championship Draws More Than 10,000 Young People in Three Levels of Robotics Challenges at the Ultimate Celebration of Science and Technology – Business Wire

Twenty thousand FIRST supporters – mentors, students, volunteers, sponsors and fans – gathered this weekend at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to experience the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, the ultimate heart-pounding, high-energy celebration of science and technology.  The 19th annual FIRST Championship culminated in a frenzied final round of robotic matches when teams from Redondo Beach, Calif., Milford, Mich., and South Windsor, Conn., emerged victorious as the winning FIRST Robotics Competition alliance…

Written by Vu Nguyen

April 20th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Posted in General News

National Robotics Week Kicks off with Events Across the Country

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Credit for this article to Sarah Francomano and Eric Schauer, Business Wire:

[Link to Original Article from MarketWatch.com/Business Wire, by Sarah Francomano and Eric Schauer]

From April 10-18, Regional Events and Activities Will Allow the Public To “Experience the Possibilities” Through Robotics Technology

BEDFORD, Mass., Apr 12, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The first annual National Robotics Week commenced this week with a series of regional events and activities aimed at increasing public awareness of the growing importance of “robo-technology” and the

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tremendous social and cultural impact that it will have on the future of how people will live, work and play worldwide. National Robotics Week will occur annually on the second full week of April to recognize robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation. The week’s aim is to highlight the growing importance of robotics in a wide variety of application areas and to emphasize its ability to inspire students while building their interest in technology and innovation.

From California to Massachusetts, events held throughout the week feature dozens of opportunities for the public to interact with robots in a hands-on learning environment. Lectures, robot competition s, introductory courses on robotics for kids, educational workshops for businesses, demos and tours of robotics labs will provide networking opportunities and expose many to the genius and wonder of robotics.

National Robotics Week is a product of an effort by leading universities and companies to create a “national roadmap” for robotics technology, which was initially unveiled at a May 2009 briefing by academic and industry leaders to the Congressional Caucus on Robotics. U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (PA-14), co-chair of the caucus, and other members submitted a formal resolution (H.Res. 1055) that Congress passed on March 9, 2010 to support the designation of the second full week in April as National Robotics Week.

“The United States has the largest number of academic and research organizations with programs focused on the advancement of robotics technology in the world,” said Colin Angle, chairman and chief executive officer of iRobot. “It is exciting for all of us involved in this industry to have support from both the public and private sectors to create National Robotics Week. It provides a real opportunity to demonstrate to the country the profound impact robotics can and will have on our everyday lives.”

The current effort is being coordinated by a National Robotics Week Advisory Council, organized by iRobot Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!irbt/quotes/nls/irbt (IRBT 15.18, -0.02, -0.13%) and The Technology Collaborative, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit economic development organization, along with a number of other companies, universities and organizations, including: Adept Technology /quotes/comstock/15*!adep/quotes/nls/adep (ADEP 4.37, -0.07, -1.55%) ; the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI); AUVSI Foundation; Botball(R) (KISS Institute for Practical Robotics); Carnegie Mellon University; Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh; FIRST(R) (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology); Georgia Institute of Technology; Infamous Robotics; Innovation First International; Johns Hopkins University; MIT; Mass Technology Leadership Council; Museum of Science, Boston; Robotic Industries Association (RIA); The Tech Museum in Silicon Valley; Stanford University; University of Massachusetts Lowell; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Southern California.

Robotics technology is expected to fuel a broad array of next-generation products and applications in fields as diverse as manufacturing, healthcare, national defense and security, agriculture and transportation. At the same time, robotics is proving to be uniquely adept at enabling students of all ages to learn important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts and at inspiring them to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.

During National Robotics Week, many of these areas of growth will be demonstrated at public events and activities in cities across the country, including:

Boston, Mass.          Baltimore, Md.
Lowell, Mass.          La Plata, Md.
Worcester, Mass.       Austin, Texas
Cambridge, Mass.       Bloomington, Ind.
Bridgewater, Mass.     Fairfax, Va.
Pittsburgh, Pa.        Blacksburg, Va.
Philadelphia, Pa.      Hartford, Conn.
New York, N.Y.         Ann Arbor, Mich.
Washington, D.C.       Renton, Wash.
San Francisco, Calif.  Boulder, Colo.
Los Angeles, Calif.    Winston-Salem, N.C.
El Cajon, Calif.       Madison, Wis.
San Jose, Calif.       Marion, Ohio
San Mateo, Calif.      Jackson, Miss.
Pleasanton, Calif.     Monroe, La.
Atlanta, Ga.           Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

For a full listing of National Robotics Week events from around the country and other robotics-related resources and information, please visit us at www.nationalroboticsweek.org or on Twitter (@roboweek or #roboweek) and Facebook (facebook.com/roboweek).

About the National Robotics Week Advisory Council

The NRWAC’s goal is to recognize robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation, highlighting its growing importance in a wide variety of application areas, and emphasizing its ability to inspire technology education. The effort is organized by iRobot Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!irbt/quotes/nls/irbt (IRBT 15.18, -0.02, -0.13%) and The Technology Collaborative, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit economic development organization. They are joined by Adept Technology /quotes/comstock/15*!adep/quotes/nls/adep (ADEP 4.37, -0.07, -1.55%) ; the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI); AUVSI Foundation; Botball(R) (KISS Institute for Practical Robotics); Carnegie Mellon University; Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh; FIRST(R) (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology); Georgia Institute of Technology; Infamous Robotics; Innovation First International; Johns Hopkins University; MIT; Mass Technology Leadership Council; Museum of Science, Boston; Robotic Industries Association (RIA); The Tech Museum in Silicon Valley; Stanford University; University of Massachusetts Lowell; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Southern California. For more information on the National Robotics Week Advisory Council, please visit www.nationalroboticsweek.org.

SOURCE: National Robotics Week Advisory Council

Written by Vu Nguyen

April 12th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Posted in General News

ROBOTC 2.0.2 Released for both NXT and VEX

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ROBOTC 2.0.2 is available for both NXT and VEX versions. Go here for the links:

Download ROBOTC for NXT |   Download ROBOTC for VEX

NEW FEATURE: Deactivate Licenses! See image below on how to deactivate a license.

deactivate

Changelog for ROBOTC for Mindstorms 2.0.2:

  • ROBOTC for MINDSTORMS 2.0.2 is a maintenance release for bug fixes and small functionality changes.
  • New features in ROBOTC for MINDSTORMS 2.0.2
    • Added the Help Menu is a new option to deactivate ROBOTC. This will return your license and allow you to activate ROBOTC on another computer. This requires internet connectivity to return a license.
  • Bug Fixes in ROBOTC for MINDSTORMS 2.0.2:
    • Access to long (and float) struct elements in a call by reference struct procedure parameter would generate incorrect code.
    • Unary operator ‘-’ was incorrectly applied to following “expression” rather than following “factor”.
    • Possible Compile and Download Issues have been resolved. ROBOTC now forces a recompile at every download.

Changelog for ROBOTC for IFI 2.0.2:

  • New features in ROBOTC for IFI 2.0.2
    • Added the Help Menu is a new option to deactivate ROBOTC. This will return your license and allow you to activate ROBOTC on another computer. This requires internet connectivity to return a license.
    • Completely refreshed user interface – Dockable status and debugger windows.
    • New multi-document interface allows multiple programs to be opened at once – similar to web browsing tabs.
    • VEXnet support for VEX 0.5 systems.
    • Built-in software competition switch is available under the Debugger for testing competition code with VEXnet.
    • VRC Competition Templates are now accessable under the “File – New” menu.
    • VRC Competition Template for “Drivers Skill” challenge has been added.
    • Improved Help Documentation – Sample usage of every ROBOTC function now included!
    • Updated Sample Programs – Over 70 sample programs to show you how to do everything with your VEX controller.
    • No Uninstall Needed – ROBOTC will detect old version of ROBOTC for IFI and automatically uninstall when a new version is being installed.
  • Bug Fixes in ROBOTC for IFI 2.0.2:
    • VEXnet Competition debugger window has been fixed. You can now test all modes of competition.
    • VEX Master Firmware download issues have been solved. A failed master firmware download will no longer require IFI loader to fix.
    • Problem with motor ports behaving randomly/running at full speed after new firmware is loaded has been fixed.
    • VEX Master Firmware has ben upgraded to Version V10 – All users must upgrade to Master V10.
    • ROBOTC VEX Firmware has been upgraded to Version to 7.97 – All users must upgrade to User Firmware 7.97.

As usual, remember to uninstall previous versions before installing the newest version! Upgrades are available to customers who have already purchased ROBOTC and have  an activated version of ROBOTC on their PC. You will have to re-enter

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your License Information when upgrading from 1.x to 2.x.

Written by Vu Nguyen

April 2nd, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Posted in General News