Sometimes you see something so awesome, so jaw-dropping sweet, that you just can't believe your eyes. Last Saturday afternoon, at the ROBO-ONE 10 competition in Nagai, some students from Hidakamioka High School in Gifu treated the judges and audience to one of those amazing moments:
The robot's name is "Neutrino-X", and it's ability to jump and turn while totally maintaining it's balance and stability is startling, as you can see in the video below.
The Hidakamioka High School team participated in three previous ROBO-ONE competitions, but this was the first time that they managed to score high enough to be included in the top 32 that qualify to fight in the ring in the final day's bouts. Just as a point of reference, the current Neutrino-X robot version is 41 cm tall and weighs 2.7Kg.
To qualify they had to first pass the initial pre-screening test, which eliminated about 30% of the entries to ROBO-ONE 10. Then they had to give a two minute autonomous demonstration of the robot's ability in front of the panel of expert judges and an audience of roughly a 1,000 fans.
Each ROBO-ONE event has a special theme to challenge and inspire the competitors. For ROBO-ONE 10, the challenge was to get your robot to do the rabbit hop, a physical training exercise that is quite popular among somewhat sadistic sports coaches, and absolutely hated by the athletes that are forced to do it.
The rabbit hop basically requires that you crouch down in a deep knee bend position, then do a series of hops primarily using your leg muscles. It's brutal - try it if you don't believe us. All of the ROBO-ONE players had trouble getting their robots to achieve a reasonable rabbit hop, and many of them either gave up and didn't enter, or switched robots to lighter designs.
Most players focused on the leg servos and tried to solve the challenge using brute force and higher torque. In the days leading up to the competition there were numerous posts on their weblogs talking about stripped gears and broken servos.
The Neutrino-X team took a really surprising, out-of-the-box approach to the problem. They decided to use every servo in the robot to assist in the hop. In the slow motion video sequence, notice how the side momentum of the robots arm, the twisting of the hip servo, and even the two feet contribute tremendously to help the robot gain altitude.
What did the judges think? They obviously agreed that Neutrino-X is awesome. Based on the team's total demonstration, not only the amazing jumping, the judges awarded Neutrino-X 396 points which put it in third place slightly behind Toku Toku Maru (405 points) and AFURO (414 points).
On the final day's bouts Neutrino-X won it's first two fights, but then lost to Black Blade - but that's another story we'll try to cover with video soon....
They may still be high school students, but members of the Neutrino-X robot team seem destined to make significant contributions to the field of robotics over the next few decades as their careers develop. They really know how to think and solve problems creatively, while having a lot of fun doing it.
Hidakamioka High School Website (Japanese)
ROBO-ONE Coverage and Videos (English)