Spelman Fields Robotic Soccer Team at RoboCup Games

Spelman College, the historically black college for women based in Atlanta, GA, is fielding a team of soccer-playing robots at RoboCup 2007, an international competition to promote research into artificial intelligence and robotics.

Spelman's team, the SpelBots, will compete in two events associated with the competition: the inaugural Microsoft Robotics Studio Soccer Challenge and a Four-Legged Robot Technical Challenge.

This is the Spelbot's third attempt at robotic glory at RoboCup: in
2005 and 2006, the SpelBots reached a milestone by becoming the first all-female, all-Black, and all-undergraduate team to qualify for the RoboCup four-legged soccer competition.

RoboCup soccer is divided into four separate leagues: the four-legged, humanoid, middle-size, small-size, standard robot, RoboCup junior soccer, and soccer-stimulation leagues.

The Microsoft Robotics Studio Soccer Challenge is a four-legged competition simulated on computers. The Challenge requires each team to use a programming language to write software code that controls robotic dogs as they compete in soccer matches on a physics-based three-dimensional simulated field.

"With the Microsoft Challenge we are venturing into new territory, and it shows our students that they have to learn to adapt to new technology," said Andrew Williams, associate professor of computer and information science and adviser to the SpelBots team.

 "One of the main goals of SpelBots is to expose the African-American community to robotics technology and the type of education required to enter the field and the types of careers available in a field that is wide open," Andrew Williams, associate professor of computer and information science and adviser to the SpelBots team.

 He added: "Especially looking at what [Microsoft Chairman] Bill Gates says about there eventually being a robot in every home, I want our students to look at getting graduate degrees in computer science and robotics, and being the ones to help decide how these robots are designed and impact society. During the dot com revolution there were not enough people of color involved. With the robotics revolution coming, I want to get students of color involved at the outset."

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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