With our new friends from Brazil at RoboCup 2014 that drove us to the store…twice
Made it on to the bus earlier this morning. Instead of heading straight to the beach like I normally do before getting ready to go, I got ready to go and waited for the bus while I read, prayed, and wrote in my journal at around 6:40am (4:40am Milwaukee time). When the team came out I ran inside to grab breakfast. By the time I got back there was a long line of people waiting for the bus and I found out that we weren’t on the list. Thankfully, the other person that saw me when I was first in line, vouched for me and the RoboCup volunteer let us get on the bus.
We had our team meeting after starting out the day in prayer. I thanked God for the opportunity and asked that He give us wisdom, knowledge, and patience as well as continued teamwork and communication. We surprised Adam and sang happy birthday to him and told him we would celebrate later with his new found favorite Brazilian dessert, acai, a frozen, chocolate pudding or ice dessert with different types of granola, powdered milk(?), and bananas. Yesterday we found it to be a refreshing snack but we might have ordered too much.
The team has some new strategies (I can’t post until after RoboCup but they are testing them out on the field now. The students found out firsthand how our walk compares to the other teams. We have a long way to go but we plan to improvise in the short term and make some major improvements in the long run.
Our next match is against the NimbRo team from University of Bonn, Germany at 1pm. We thought they were favored to win the whole thing especially since they have a long history in RoboCup and in the teen-sized humanoid league. The NimbRo team was upset by the Baset team 10-0 yesterday. Sunny and Forrest are actually cousins of NimbRo. We looked at the basic dimensions and specifications of their carbon fiber NimbRo-OP and Adam used SolidWorks to design MU-L8. Our team wrote and published a research paper about MU-L8 and we presented just this past fall in Atlanta at the International Humanoids conference. It’s amazing that even then, our robot was not walking, we had not qualified for RoboCup, and we had not raised any funds to participate in RoboCup 2014 Brazil. But somehow, God brought our team and robots together, united our funders including friends, family, alumni, and companies and we are here. Yesterday, after our 0-0 match with Brazil, we found out that not only are we here, but we belong here.
Our match with Germany, the favored team of this event, went 0-10 in their favor. It’s tough to see my students have to go through this but failure is essential to the learning process. I’ll repeat in quotes, “Failure is essential to the learning process”. The best teacher is experience. Either we can do our best to learn from other’s experiences or we can learn from being in the fire ourselves. This week, our students were “in the fire” so to speak but it’s a good thing, a rich thing because they saw what the robot needed to do, not just for this year but in the future. I’m reminded again of the encouragement Donya from the Baset team gave us, that they were once in our shoes but look how far they have gotten. I reminded our students of the Winston Churchill quote I shared with them on the bus to Chicago on our way to Brazil, “Success is never final, failure is seldom fatal, but it’s courage that counts!”
Just now one of my RoboCup colleagues from a University in Chile, Javier, came over to our table with his children. He was commenting on how beautiful our robots were and that what our team is experience in matches is normal. He said it takes many years to perfect the robots and even then it is stiff competition. He said tell the students to keep at it and continue to work hard.
We tied in the match against the joint team from Canada and Iran 0-0. It was a very close call. Their player ran circles around the ball…literally…but couldn’t get it into the goal. Sunny will need to do some additional training in the off season but she did the best she could. Our old guy, Forrest, manned the goal and did a great job of tracking the ball. His knees held up as long as they could until they gave out at the end with just seconds on the clock. Look for the students RoboCup documentary this fall to see the highlights on video. We found out that we are actually in fourth place as it stands and if we win tomorrow we control our destiny. If not, then there are some scenarios that would happen for us to make it in. We have 2 point in the team standings and we are currently ranked in 4th place.
John is at the team leaders meeting. Darrell and Josh will go to the referee meeting for the technical challenges. Adam and Kellen are working on our new strategies for the walking, kicking, and vision. Elise and Bridget went to go buy some much needed and desired water and snacks. If we were to walk back to our hotel it would take two and a half hours so we always catch a bus. Just now we met a student from a German university that said that about 100 participants were stranded last night here at the convention center because everyone waited for the last bus but there was not enough room. We will be leaving on the next to the last bus…we hope.
As I continue to read in the Psalms in the morning, I read how eager the Psalmist was to walk into the house of the Lord to experience God’s presence and to worship Him. The Psalmist felt obligated and enthusiastic about giving thanks to God. This morning as I watched another magnificent display and arrangement of clouds, sun, waves, sand, and trees on the Atlantic Ocean 5000 miles away from Milwaukee, I paused to give thanks. Yes, I am thankful for how well our students prepared and handled the pressure of this world championship competition in AI and robotics. Yes, I’m thankful that we tied against Brazil. Yes, I am thankful that we were able to compete with the team from Iran. But more than that, I am thankful for the student’s lives and value that goes beyond engineering and computer science. These are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews. Their lives are much bigger than robot soccer and I’m thankful for the small role that this competition is having on their character, their learning, and their lives both now and in the future. Thank you, Lord, for all of these magnificent gifts You have for us and the ones You have in store for us in the future.