BuGa 2023: ER-Force vs. RoboTeam Twente

And it’s already 1:00 PM, and our next game, ER-Force vs. RoboTeam Twente, is up. If we can deliver a comparable performance to the last game against TIGERs Mannheim, this should be an easy victory. But we’re curious, and as they say: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!

Unfortunately, there’s no livestream for this game either, but it will be recorded, so a stream should be available later.

First Half

05:00 Just like the last game, it seems this game will also experience some delays. Both Twente and ER-Force seem to need more time, even though ER-Force already has all 6 robots on the field.
05:00 The game hasn’t properly started yet, but Twente has already taken a timeout. Meanwhile, it’s great to see 3 substitute robots relaxing on the bench next to our field, waiting for their chance to shine. Of course, we still hope it won’t come to that and our robots will hold up completely, just like in the last game.
05:00 And the 5-minute timeout granted to each team during regular game time is over. Since Twente apparently can’t get their robots moving, we use our timeout to give Twente a bit more time. So, timeout for ER-Force.
05:00 Now our 5 minutes are up too. The future of the game is definitely secured; in case Twente doesn’t get their robots running, we’ve already arranged to play against TIGERs Mannheim again. Nevertheless, we really hope that Twente can turn things around and get their robots going.
05:00 And the robots are moving! After about 2 more robots, the problem seems to be fundamentally resolved! Let’s hope that this will be the only incident for this game!
05:00 Kickoff by Twente. The Dutch team plays with purple-white robots and yellow jerseys, while ER-Force is in white attire and plays as the blue team.
04:40 A direct dangerous shot on Twente’s goal, after we got a free kick due to a Double Touch by Twente. Twente already has a foul as well, as they were too close to the ball during the kickoff.
03:18 Good attack by our robots, but the ball rolls just narrowly past the goal at a sharp angle.
03:14 But now! Another attack by us on Twente’s goal, and this time we score, increasing the lead to 1:0!
ER-Force 1 : 0 RoboTeam Twente
03:14 Minor issues at Twente. But that’s not all: Even the vision, meaning the camera system above the field, doesn’t seem to work perfectly, resulting in one of the robots in the Twente penalty area not being recognized. The game is temporarily halted, and Twente uses the time to get robots back on the field.
03:14 Small issue with the automatic PA system that comments on the game: After a shrill whistle, it continuously says “Free kick by Twente,” much to the amusement of all present. The automatic PA system was developed specifically for BuGa (Bundesgartenschau) to make it easier for the audience to understand the game.
03:14 Indeed, 6 new robots from our side are now on the field! The tournament has been running fantastically so far, aside from the unfortunate own goal! Meanwhile, outside: It’s pouring down. Thunderstorms from all sides. If you open the door, you’ll be blown back into the hall immediately.
03:14 Now, there’s even been a bug! No, not a software bug, but one that detached itself from the wall drawings and ventured onto the field! But we quickly took care of it, and the field is clear again. That’s probably why the hall is named “Pests and Beneficial Organisms.”
00:00 As the game is already quite exhausting, and Twente is facing many problems, it’s decided to move the game to the beginning of the second half. Therefore, we conclude the first half with a score of 1:0.
05:00 The clock time seems to be reset to 5 minutes. Why, I don’t know, but that’s the way it is. Twente has also gotten the kickoff but messed it up again.
04:11 At first, it seemed like our #8 couldn’t shoot. It kept nudging the ball instead of taking a shot. But that was apparently a feint, as it finally shot just in front of the goal and scored!
ER-Force 2 : 0 RoboTeam Twente
03:16 Another attack by us on the goal, but this time, we missed the target. No problem so far, as we are leading comfortably.
01:59 The game is somewhat meandering. Although we dominate strongly, a goal hasn’t been scored yet.
00:00 The halftime whistle is blown, after approximately 5 minutes have passed in total. As mentioned before: It’s not fully understood, but at least it was 5 minutes.

Second Half

05:00 The second half is kicked off by ER-Force.
04:23 As nothing happens, the game is eventually halted due to “Lack of Progress” (i.e., nothing noteworthy happens for 5 seconds), and a so-called Force Start is given, where both teams have an equal chance to reach the ball first. However, one of Twente’s robots starts spinning uncontrollably, so it must be taken off the field to protect the carpet.
03:50 Now we’re playing in power play mode, meaning with 6 robots against 5. However, this doesn’t make much of a difference, as Twente currently has only 4 robots on the field due to hardware limitations. Meanwhile, we continue to have 6 robots on the field without a single dropout.
02:36 A missed chance by us: We defend well in our half and pass the ball to one of our robots in the opponent’s half, but it prefers to wait for the opponent rather than aiming for the goal.
02:17 Now, a robot has to be replaced, but we currently have 4 substitute players.
01:57 And another goal for us! Now it’s 3:0.
ER-Force 3 : 0 RoboTeam Twente
01:02 Short break: Both AI referees say that a Twente robot touched the ball in their own penalty area. This is only allowed for the goalkeeper, making it a foul. However, since no one really saw anything, there’s currently a discussion.
00:55 It’s decided that the robot did touch the ball, so we get a penalty shot. Unfortunately, the robot we subbed in just a short while ago misses the shot right in front of the goal, so the score remains unchanged.
00:23 Flex first, then mess up: One by one, robots from our team take part in an endless series of dribbles, and the game seems perfect. We lead the Dutch team around by the nose. But instead of finally deciding to take a shot on goal, a dribble is messed up, and the ball goes to the opponent.
00:00 And thus, this game also comes to an end, fortunately with a score of 3:0 in our favor!

BuGa 2023: ER-Force vs. TIGERs Mannheim

Now it’s finally time: The tournament at the Bundesgartenshow 2023 officially begins with the first match of the group stage: ER-Force vs. TIGERs Mannheim.

We’re incredibly excited about the game, as we were able to achieve very positive results with our robots during the course of yesterday and this morning: While our new radio system had significant issues at RoboCup, the tests looked extremely promising yesterday evening. Together with the HBC team, the manufacturer of our radio system, and with the support of Gerhard Schubert, we made significant progress in the last two weeks. Everyone involved has put in many hours to push the radio system to the level of perfection we were used to from INTERPACK 2023 in May. The HBC radio worked perfectly there, completely unaffected by the numerous trade show Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth devices.

Important note: Unlike RoboCup, all games at Bundesgartenshow are played with walls (bande), which means there are no out-of-bounds. This is an experiment by the organizers to see how well it works. We can expect very fluid games since out-of-bounds is the most frequent game interruption.

Since there’s unfortunately no livestream, the game will be provided as a video later.

First Half

05:00 The game starts with over 10 minutes delay, which is usually the case for the first game of the day and the tournament.
05:00 Unfortunately, a larger part of the first half could not be ticked due to personnel reasons. We’re currently limited in staff. As far as possible, the ticker will be updated. Unlike RoboCup, we have only 7 people for this tournament, which is definitely too few. Still a good experience: We estimate that we could fill all personnel gaps with 10 – 11 people, which is valuable for future tournaments. However, it doesn’t reduce the stress of this tournament.
02:30 So far, a very fluid game. A positive point to note is that our HBC radio can finally unleash the potential that it has. The robots are moving very smoothly, following their commands! We are currently playing with 4 new and 2 old robots.
01:00 Own goal by us! That’s unfortunate, it could have been avoided and must definitely be considered as part of our strategy, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.
ER-Force 0 : 1 TIGERs Mannheim
00:26 Very dangerous situation in our half. But in the end, our goalkeeper clears it to the right side, defusing the situation.
00:06 So far, a very fast and fluid game, which is, of course, due to the walls (bande) being used, resulting in no out-of-bounds.
-01:27 The game was quite balanced towards the end. Since the game is no longer interrupted due to out-of-bounds, it’s running for a long time, and now it’s stopped only because of a crash and the first half is whistled. Overall, it’s nice to watch; the decision against out-of-bounds adds a lot to the entertainment value for the spectators.

Second Half

05:00 Kick-off for the second half.
04:24 Yellow card for TIGERs, as they have accumulated three minor fouls during the game (they held the ball with the dribbler for too long twice and caused a crash at the end of the first half). Meanwhile, we’re replacing a robot.
04:24 Currently, there seem to be some minor issues with the network, causing the game to pause. During matches in our league, a central computer continuously receives camera data, processes it, and sends the resulting robot positions and velocities, along with referee commands and other information, via the local network to the team PCs, which then derive their game decisions from it and send them to the robots via radio. Therefore, a faulty network is a major problem for the game.
04:24 Apparently, the RefBox has also been successfully destroyed: The RefBox is a piece of software into which the human referee can input decisions, and where all decisions of the AI referee come together and are more or less clearly displayed. It seems that an attempt is being made to roll out a very old version of the RefBox, in which the “Game Controller” (the person supporting the referee who sits in front of the RefBox) has to manually input all commands, something that has been banned for years. Long-time members still have muscle memory for operating the old RefBox via the number pad, but the younger ones groan about the “Stone Age technology”.
04:24 Other than that, a brief update: Nothing has been broken so far; our hardware is running flawlessly, especially the new robots. So, in this area too, we’ve made significant progress compared to RoboCup. The one robot that was replaced was an old one and even it was driving a bit crooked, but didn’t show any serious issues.
04:24 The game continues, but ER-Force immediately takes a timeout. Apparently, our software doesn’t have the new radio system perfectly integrated yet, causing the software to occasionally lose the connection. Had to restart briefly, now everything is running smoothly again.
05:00 Apparently, they restarted the time after changing the RefBox.
03:48 Dangerous duel near our goal with a TIGERs bot, but we can clear the ball again.
03:35 Interruption of the game after TIGERs kick the ball out of the field towards the audience! Good thing they’re already one and a half meters above the field behind a railing.
03:05 After some good passes by TIGERs, one of their robots messes up the reception, much to our delight!
03:00 TIGERs’ yellow card has expired, so we’re back to playing 6 vs. 6.
02:22 Good situation for us in Mannheim’s penalty area, but their goalkeeper can clear it.
02:06 Another nice situation in TIGERs’ goal.
01:35 And right away, the attack in front of our goal, but our defense stands strong!
00:45 This time the ball goes out of the field through us. Playing with walls is new for both teams, not everything is smooth yet, especially in connection with the edges of the field.
-00:14 And the game ends 1:0 for TIGERs Mannheim with an own goal from us. As usual, TIGERs Mannheim ends their game with a victory dance, this time including the Cantina Band and a little dance.

In retrospect, it was a very nice game and much more to our liking! Everything went smoothly, the radio worked brilliantly, the hardware functioned perfectly. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, and that must also be the aspiration, but still, we can be very satisfied with the game. This will definitely be an exciting tournament!

Test Tournament in Mannheim

And once again, our team is continuing at high speed this year! Hardly have our guests from Uruguay returned to their home country, and we’re already moving forward in with a test tournament hosted by the world champion TIGERs Mannheim and their Dual University Baden-Württemberg as part of the Bundesgartenshow 2023 in Mannheim.

And so it’s already 07:54 AM for us at Erlangen Central Station, as we’re off to Baden-Württemberg, this time only using regional trains and the Germany Ticket for cost reasons. Surprisingly, there are no train delays, and by 1:00 PM, we can enter the sacred halls of the BuGa.

As with all our other trips, the first order of business in Mannheim is: Arrive, unpack, and start. It doesn’t take half an hour before the entire space provided to us is occupied with various equipment, chargers, and soldering irons.

Soon, the field for testing should be available, allowing us to make our robots operational. But first, it’s about being patient and settling in: Welcome to BuGa 2023 Mannheim!

PS: A fun fact on the side: We’re accommodated on the BuGa premises in the hall for “Beneficial Organisms and Pests.” No, we’re not pests; instead, they’re referring to the wall’s artwork. There simply wasn’t space for us in other halls.

Workshop with UruBots

Hardly back in Germany, we’re already starting the exam period with a joint workshop with the freshly established Uruguayan team UruBots. There was already a kick-off meeting in Germany last August with the team’s two professors.

The 13 students and 2 instructors are from the newly established University UTEC in northern Uruguay, right on the border with Brazil. Since mid-July, they’ve been traveling all over Germany and have already achieved some successes: The team secured the first place in a discipline at the FIRA RoboWorld Cup in Wolfenbüttel. After all the exciting experiences, the journey of the Uruguayans, who by the way, hardly anyone has ever been to a country other than their homeland, now ends at FAU in Erlangen.

After the workshop starts with introductions and presentations about our university group, it ramps up after lunch in our local university cafeteria: Our guests tinker with robots, program their first AI, and evaluate how they can improve their robots. The day ends with a small test game in our basement.

After an exciting first day where both teams learned a lot, the second day is all about cultural exchange and getting to know each other: In mixed groups, we cook spinach lasagna and Chivito, a kind of burger served on a French baguette with vegetables, fries, and a special sauce.

While one group prepares both dishes together, the rest of us engage in a traditional Uruguayan card game: Erizo. We didn’t do too bad, but Bavarians seem to have a natural knack for card games, so what did we really expect.

Finally, we conclude the workshop with presentations about UTEC and our university. A big thanks to Ms. Claudia Barnickel, who represented and presented our university excellently in Spanish. Now, the Uruguayans just have to hop on the train and enjoy the last few days of vacation in Germany. Back home, they’ll continue with the ambitious robot-building project.

From our side, we can only hope to see our friends from Uruguay again soon at RoboCup and remain in hopeful anticipation of the young team’s further successes.

Carpet Installation 2023

Unfortunately, in December of last year, we fell victim to water damage, which turned our basement into a construction site for a while. However, thanks to the strong support from the university, we not only managed to navigate the problem skillfully, but we also found a sustainable solution. A big thank you to FAPS, who offered us a replacement field with camera and tinkering corner within 24 hours of our request (!), and to the Department of Computer Science, who put all their energy into restoring the room.

However, our old carpet did not escape the water damage completely. Additionally, it had already seen better days, so shortly after RoboCup 2023, it was time for a new carpet. First, we had to make space for it in the basement.

Only together were we able to bring the heavy, over five-meter-long carpet roll from FAPS to the basement. Once again, many heartfelt thanks for accepting and storing it during RoboCup. We had to navigate it through some tight corners and over high steps.

After safely getting the carpet roll onto the playing field, a significant advantage of our new carpet became evident. Unlike our previous one, this time we only had a single roll, so we didn’t need to worry about aligning two separate sections while unrolling.

As the final step before setting up the vision system, we needed to stick the field lines to the carpet. Teamwork was crucial once again, as it was the only way to ensure the lines were straight when applied to the carpet.

A special thanks goes to the company Kibek, with their branch in Fürth, which provided us with very competent advice and significant price support when obtaining the carpet.

In the past, we have been able to rely on the honest and knowledgeable advice from the employees in Fürth, and we will gladly do so again in the future!