Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 4 Competition

The competition is here!

Each round is only about two and half minutes, each robot has to scoop up a variety of coloured inflatables and place them on a peg, its a bit like basketball I guess.

The specification of each robot is roughly the same so the size of the chassis, and has a vertical section with some kind of arm, the movement can be with bicycle chain, wire pulleys or hydraulics.

An unusual part of the competition, is each robot has an extra mini-robot, looking like a rollerskate, this gets launched from an extra extending arm, put onto the these poles where it has to climb up and press the top activating a switch making a green light come on, for a massive bonus in points.   As you can expect this is a very difficult task to do in a short space of time, as well as implement into the design of the robot.

My job here was simply as a marshal to gather the shapes and put them on the side in between each game.  There are teams come out after each tournament to load their robot onto a trolley and take back to the pit.  These things look like giant bagels!   The glasses are necessary in case pieces break off a robot, theres a lot of sharp metal bits in the inner workings there.

A lot of the judges have some engineering background, some of the Israelis work for famous names in IT such as Google and Hewlett Packard.  It was good to chat about humorous connections to Futurama (looks like Tel Aviv at the beginning credits of this show!) and I-Robot as well 🙂

The winners!

This was absolutely superb event to be part of, and as Christian and an IT person to participate in this event, I think its humbling that the Lord God gives some of us Christian volunteers extra ways to serve him in doing different and exciting challenges.  I hope this event continues on to help young people with curiosity for technology in a sporting team event and helps this country’s reputation as a place fertile in highly skilled engineers and problem solvers.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 2 Meet the robots

Another 5am start – urrrgh….

But it was worth it also.   As the robotics event was already in full swing, I did get to miss out on the Lego event that happened earlier in the week sadly, as my colleagues from work were helping out on the monday and tuesday.

The electronic signs didn’t show English, but some other signs around the corner did show which gates at Jerusalem bus station are for which city.

Tel Aviv bus station is hugely complicated.   Its a bit reminiscent of the now gone Tricorn shopping centre in Portsmouth, UK, for its concrete angles.   When your bus gets there you are high up as its like a multistory car park, quite a clever design really and you have to use lifts or escalators or steps down.

I just seem to go round and round looking for an exit, and got into an abandoned wing of the shopping centre which looked a bit seedy and smelt of wee.  Got to like the “Parkings” sign!

Back at the Nokia arena, I got to visit some of the contestants there…

Meet the robots!  They are all made of mostly steel, weigh upto about 40 kilos, have an upright arm for grabbing objects, share the same control system (wireless by laptop)  and are sponsored by companies big and small.   There is a bumper, a rubber or foam insulator around the whole thing to protect from knocking into things.   I don’t know much about the rules and specs they had to be built to, but I do know they are not mean to attack each other or people 🙂

The teams are almost all Israelis, secular and religious Jews, Arabs and a team from the military too, plus was one foreign team from Bosnia.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 1 The Arena

I am up at 5.30am, its dark, I  get some tea and go out onto balcony to get some fresh air and be ready to leave the house at 6.

My friend Dan picks me up and Theuno, another volunteer from South Africa and we head off to Tel Aviv.

Instead of doing normal IT administrator work and helping our staff in the office, I have got to work on a community project, its for a robotics competition where groups of young engineers get ready to design, build a remote controlled mechanical device in teams.

Its nice to be out of the office and doing something different, and this type of event where youth with a passion for building their own contraptions and have to obtain sponsorship from large companies in Israel to find their projects, get to pitch their creations at this exciting event.

Its no secret IT and technology has been part of Israel’s best and most exciting exports to the rest of the world, this month I got blessed to go to this event, and I am planning to go to a Microsoft technology event also in Tel Aviv later this month.

A not too long drive and we are at skyscraper laden modern city of Tel Aviv, didn’t manage to get take out coffee on the way down but there is a Aroma coffee place built in the side of the building here.

This is Tel Aviv’s Nokia stadium.

Maybe it will have to be the ‘Nokia Windows phone stadium’ soon, given Nokia’s recent plan to abandon their Symbian operating system and use a Microsoft’s Windows mobile.   Bugs and frustrations in Nokia’s touch phones have caused even long term fans of Nokia to abandon to other handsets, especially given problems with the faux-iTunes-alike Ovi media software.    Switching to a non inhouse software environment is likely to result in a huge job losses for software engineers in Finland’s biggest name in IT, and staff and visitor here I see are mostly calling each other or browsing the web on iPhones.

The stadium is apparently owned by Tel Aviv municipality, and built in 1964, in 2005 it was renamed the Nokia Arena.   I guess naming sporting complexes after sponsors is becoming common place just like London’s millenium dome became the O2 arena.

This wiki article on the stadium also mentions a brief bit about the robotics competitions done here.

The stadium is fairly small perhaps by European standards holding about 11,000 people, the centre stage is less than a football pitch.   Its mainly used for Macabbi Tel Aviv basketball club to play.

Left, my friends from work help with fabricating some new pieces of polycarbonate used for part of the stage system, the current thin pieces got brittle and cracked, our DIY supremo Robbie cut these pieces and put the holes in, we had to remove the metal hinges and fix them to the new better quality 6mm plastic sheets.  A ratchet spanner makes easy work of this.

There are in-house stage staff that put up the large partitions and projector screens which are done by pulleys and also by men working up in the roof.

I chatted to a few people there, cheekily asking if there is possibility of free tickets to any bands seeing that Guns N Roses and The Scorpions have played here. 😀   Years ago, U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers played in Israel in 90s and many fans want them to come again, but I think they played in a Ramat Gan in another part of Tel Aviv, like Elton John, Metallica and Justin Beiber in the last year or so.  I have noticed Israelis are big into live gigs.

Was a long old day taking the large numbers of stage and shelving parts of this event, and got to know some local chaps, some are soldiers and some are studying engineering helping do the set up but not actually competing in the game.

A scissor lift and various forklifts are amongst lots of gear used by the stage hands here.  As well as the semi-permenant tent structures, if you look carefully the white square on the ground is an outdoor lift that can move large amounts of equipment from a truck down to the basement, however it wasn’t working today. 😦

As we went home for Shabbat, there is more set up to be done sunday but there is a different team of people to help then, the event starts on monday and I will be back wednesday to see how the competition goes 🙂

There is even people coming from Lego to showcase smaller robots made from off the shelf parts 🙂

Its jolly exciting.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition