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Robots and Soccer: A match made in tech-heaven

A scene from the Millikan Aquamania competition last year.
A scene from the Millikan Aquamania competition last year.

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At Caltech last year, robots dueled it out over buckyballs on water. On Tuesday, a new set of droids will battle over soccer balls.

The 31st annual Engineering Design Competition pits teams of student-made robots against each other in a soccer match at Caltech. They'll be competing for the Tridroid Cup. 

"First of all, we should say that the word 'soccer' is a proxy here for something far more complex," explained Caltech instructor Michael Mello. "Each team is tasked to create a small fleet of robotic vehicles and there are a number of obstacles in the field. There are at least 12 soccer balls at one given time."

Shiela Lo was part of last year's winning team, when competitors had to build robots that could collect as many floating buckyballs on a pond and bring them to designated scoring zones. 

This year, she's helping other students compete. What wisdom could she impart?

"[I learned] how to get back up on your feet," said Lo. "I think that just because your robot sinks, at least in our case, it doesn't necessarily mean that you know you should give up completely. It means that you need to come up with a better solution to a very, very difficult problem. Last year, after we figured out that we won the competition, it was quite a shock to us because the round previously we actually sank."

Is robot soccer as awesome as it sounds? Tune in on Tuesday as A Martinez reports from the match. For now, you can learn more about the competition when you listen to the full conversation above.