UNSW have continued their impressive form in the RoboCup by claiming third place in the 2022 Standard Platform League competition.

The UNSW student team, known as rUNSWift and led by Professor Claude Sammut from the School of Computer Science and Engineering, competed against 12 other teams from around the world at the tournament in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Standard Platform League sees all teams compete with identical robots in a game of soccer. The robots operate fully autonomously and are not controlled by either humans or computers.

rUNSWift booked their place in the quarter-finals with two wins and a draw from their opening four qualifying games, and then beat a team from the University of Texas at Austin by 3-1.

A semi-final defeat against eventual champions B-Human, from the Universität Bremen and German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, resulted in a third/fourth place play-off clash against TU Dortmund University’s Nao Devils, with the UNSW team claiming a narrow 1-0 win.

rUNSWift were RoboCup champions in 2014 and 2015 and have also finished runners-up in the competition once before.

This year marked a return to the traditional in-person soccer tournament after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID and run as a virtual competition last year.

Professor Sammut said: “I am happy with our results because these were totally new students, a lot of undergraduates who had never done anything like this before. They did a terrific job of just qualifying for the competition.

“We have been badly affected by COVID in the last couple of years because it has been hard to get students into the lab. Normally we might have 10 students involved in the RoboCup team but this year we only really had four.

“Our students are all undergraduates and they mostly work on RoboCup as a side project or as an Honours thesis. They did really well because the winning team from Germany are all Masters students who get 40 per cent of their marks from working on their robots.

“Given the fact our team is quite small and we have not had much preparation due to not really being able to get into the lab for 18 months because of COVID, I was quite surprised we got third place. It was a very pleasing result overall.”

Prof. Sammut says while the soccer-playing robots may just look like a lot of fun, the work involved in making them competitive in a game prepares students for many different career opportunities.

“A lot of the problems we are trying to solve with the robots playing soccer translate into real-world challenges,” he says.

“We have to perceive the environment, we have to learn how to react, we have to have cooperation, we have to learn how to control the motors and joints.

“It's great training for the students. Those who have worked on the RoboCup in the past have gone on to a variety of different jobs – including quite a few in Silicon Valley in America.

“They might be doing work involved in Virtual Reality headsets, or helping to develop self-driving cars. What they learn in the RoboCup carries across very directly to the software used in autonomous vehicles.”

The 2022 rUNSWift team was made up of students: Abhishek Vijayan, Neeraj Gopikrishnan, Peter Schmidt, and Mikhail Asavkin with technical support from an alumnus, Jayen Ashar.

Neil Martin