Q: In addition to working with industry standard tools, what are some of the other ways RoboCup benefits tomorrow’s engineer?
Within RoboCup, students gain knowledge of multiple technologies, including:
- Computer vision and machine learning to autonomously detect, classify, and track objects of interest
- Motion planning and controls, where the focus is on programming robots to stably and reliably move around their environment, while efficiently using and storing energy
- Cyber-physical systems, which may include multi-robot collaboration, communication between robots and humans, and leveraging cloud computing and Internet of Things services for data-driven tasks such as speech recognition
While all of these technologies are individually challenging, the combination of them is exceedingly difficult yet necessary for total robot autonomy.
Q: How does the RoboCup experience mimic what students can expect to encounter in their professional lives?
RoboCup is really no different from what professional engineers experience as they incorporate computer vision, machine learning, and control systems into commercial applications. While RoboCup is an example of the gamification of engineering, the research and results are advancing the state of robotics technology in a very real way. For example, in RoboCupRescue, teams are challenged to design ground robots that can maneuver in post-disaster scenarios over rough terrain. That’s a hands-on solution to an actual problem that wouldn’t be possible without a new approach to cross-functional engineering.
Q: What advice would you give to a student who may be contemplating joining a robotics team or entering a competition?
We see tremendous value for all parties involved. For MathWorks, student competitions lay a path to accelerated learning, which is why we are spending more time and resources training and mentoring teams and supplying student licenses for MATLAB, Simulink and related toolboxes.
For students, competitions help them master a range of engineering concepts and ground them in a tangible outcome. In the end, this kind of practical experience yields a better prepared, more versatile workforce that is catching the attention of prospective employers who are looking for the next generation of “hybrid” engineer.
Sebastian Castro is an Education Technical Evangelist at MathWorks, supporting university-level robotics competitions such as RoboCup. In previous roles, he created training material for MathWorks modeling and simulation solutions, and worked on system-level simulation and design of a conceptual solar-powered UAV. Sebastian has a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, where he researched high-level control of modular robots.