Androids Advance! - Pilot study for a National Humanoid Robotic Championship

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Sch of Systems Engineering


'Androids Advance!' takes the form of a humanoid robot tournament, similar to the Robo-One events held in Japan and North America, where contestants' robots compete in multi-disciplinary events. The challenge will be open to teams of students from secondary schools who will be required to 'upgrade' a commercially available biped robot (supplied free of charge to the participating schools) over a period of six months in order to successfully compete in the disciplines that make up the tournament.The first 'Androids Advance!' tournament is intended as a pilot study to assess the infrastructure as a public engagement tool, and to raise awareness of a subsequent nationwide tournament (consisting of eight regional heats and a final) to commence in September 2007. The pilot program will involve sixteen teams from schools in London and the Southeast of England (following the tested format of previous Young Engineers competitions) and will culminate in a live tournament day to be held at and in association with the Science Museum in London in July 2007.Support for the teams will be provided by mentors from the University of Reading throughout the course of the project both through personal contact with the teams in workshop sessions held at the participating schools and via a dedicated website where resources can be made available and individual questions from teams can be answered in private forums or in scheduled chat sessions.After the tournament, on-demand footage of each event will be made available from the 'Androids Advance' website in addition to an online conference in which teams will present video 'pod-reports' explaining their team strategy, why they chose that strategy and how it was implemented. It is intended that by making this information freely available to future teams, participants will become inspired to build on previous teams' experiences and innovations.With the passing of the new millennium there has been an apparent downturn within the mainstream media for science and technology coverage, a trend from which robots were not immune. Research at Reading has shown that whilst there is no reason to assume that the underlying fascination with robots has evaporated, familiarity and a slowing of new developments in the field has lead to a stagnation of public interest. It is the intention of this project to revitalise interest among staff and students in schools and among the general public for robots and to use robots that are considered by the public to be advanced and cutting edge (humanoid) in order to secure their interestTrends observed at recent international toy fairs indicate that many of the major toy manufacturers are set to re-enter the 'robotic' toy market, as well as hobby manufacturers preparing to deliver servo driven robots at a higher functional level. This summer will also see the launch of a live action robot movie 'Transformers' by Spielberg which is set to be the blockbuster movie of the summer. With this volume of awareness for robots, the next twelve months would appear to be ideal for promoting the science and engineering involved in robotics and promoting UK research in this field.The project is the result of a partnership between the School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading and Young Engineers and will capitalise on their extensive track records of high profile public engagement in the field of science and engineering and dedicated support of youth engineering initiatives respectively. The project has also been endorsed by the Science Museum, who will provide the venue for the tournament and publicity, and the IET.


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