Moving robotics competitions virtual: The case study of RoboCupJunior Soccer Simulation (SoccerSim)

Felipe Martins, Adrián Matejov, Marek Šuppa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

For almost 25 years, the goal of the RoboCup has been to build soccer robots capable of winning against the FIFA World Champion of 2050. To foster the participation of the next generation of roboticists, the RoboCupJunior competition takes place in parallel and provides a similar challenge of appropriate difficulty for high school students. RoboCupJunior has three main categories: Soccer, Rescue and OnStage. For the Soccer category, participants need to design, build and program a team of autonomous robots to play soccer against an opponent team of robots. The competition is physical in nature, since it assumes physical robots playing against one another. In 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for a competition of this type to take place, due to obvious restrictions on physical gatherings. To allow for some sort of participation, and inspired by positive experience of the larger RoboCup community, the Organizing Committee of RoboCupJunior Soccer has explored porting a portion of the challenge to a simulated environment. Many of the existing environments, however, are built for higher education/research teams competitions or research, making them complex to deploy and generally unsuitable for high school students. In this paper we present the development of SoccerSim, a simulated environment for RoboCupJunior Soccer, based on the Webots open-source robotics simulator. We also discuss how the participation of students was key for its development and present a summary of the competition rules. We further describe the case study of utilizing SoccerSim first as a testbed for a Demo competition, and later as part of RoboCup Worldwide 2021. The participation of more than 60 teams from over 20 countries suggests that SoccerSim provides an affordable alternative to physical robotics platforms, while being stable enough to support a diverse userbase. The experience of using SoccerSim at RoboCupJunior Worldwide 2021 suggests that a simulated environment significantly lowers the barrier to entry, as evidenced by the participation of many teams that have not participated before. To make it easy for similar competitions to take place in the future, we made the code of SoccerSim available as open-source, as well as the associated tooling required for using it in a tournament.
Original languageEnglish
Article number915322
Pages (from-to)915322
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • educational robotics
  • robotics competitions
  • RoboCup Junior soccer
  • robot simulation
  • robot soccer
  • SoccerSim
  • covid-19 outbreak

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