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Participating in the International RoboCupJunior

Megumi Yazawa
Second-Year Student in the Faculty of Science and Engineering

Megumi Yazawa, a second-year student in the Chuo University Faculty of Science and Engineering, will compete as a member of the Japanese team at the Junior Division of RoboCup, an international event in which competitors operate autonomous robots and try to score points for the results of research in science and technology.

Hard work pays off

© RoboCup 2016 Executive Committee
Chuo University Korakuen Campus

The word RoboCup was coined by combining the words of Robot and World Cup. This year’s competition will be held in Leipzig, a city in eastern Germany, and will mark the 20th anniversary of the event. Teams from a total of 20 countries will compete. From June 28 to July 4, in a city associated with musical composers such as Bach and Mendelssohn, the great writer Goethe, and the philosopher Nietzsche, teams will compete to become No. 1 in the world at RoboCupJunior.

As a final domestic preliminary, the RoboCup Japan Open was held this March at the Aichi Institute of Technology in Aichi Prefecture. The event attracted more than 2,500 competitors who had won regional competitions held throughout Japan.

Megumi formed a team together with a third-grade male student from her alma mater, the Tamagawa Academy Lower Secondary Division. Their team won a ticket to compete at RoboCupJunior in Germany by finishing first in the Junior Division of the RoboCup Japan Open. On the second day (final day) of the RoboCup Japan Open, Megumi’s team fulfilled their dream of receiving a perfect score, their best score ever. She can still hear the thunderous applause that her team received from spectators when capturing the perfect score.

Autonomous robots control themselves and complete their assigned task with accuracy and great speed. At the RoboCup, the robots gain points by navigating through maze-like courses and clearing tasks. The winner is determined by the number of points gained.

After the team captain manually starts the robot, the robot operates autonomously for the rest of the event (specified as 8 minutes). Remote control is prohibited, as is sending data required for the competition.

Megumi assembles the robots, while her partner (who also serves as a team captain) programs the robots. Programming is the process of creating instructions for operation of a computer. Through hard work and devotion, team members implement unique measures to imbue the robots with the spirit of their creators. It can be said that the robots are an alter ego of the two team members.

One event in which teams will participate is Rescue Maze. The features of the event are well-depicted by the preface in the 2015 rulebook issued by the RoboCup Junior Rescue Technical Committee.

Preface
The land is simply too dangerous for humans to reach the victim! Your team has been given the most difficult tasks. It must be able to carry out the rescue mission in fully autonomous mode with no human assistance. The robot must be strong and smart enough to navigate through a treacherous terrain with hills, uneven lands and rubble without getting stuck. The robot needs to seek out the victims, dispense rescue kit, and signal the position to the rescuers so the humans can take over.
Time and technical skills are the essential! Come and prepare to be the most successful Rescue Response Team.
(Excerpted directly from Rules 2015)

Robot built with heartfelt devotion (photograph provided by Megumi Yazawa)

Robots now perform in an increasingly wide range of areas. They measure the concentration of radioactive materials. They work in earthquake disaster areas which are strewn with rubble from destroyed and partially-destroyed structures. In the fields of health and medicine, robots play an active role in nursing care and help to reduce the burden on caregivers. The harmonization of robotic engineering and artificial intelligence is an essential part of modern society.

In FY2012, the curriculum guideline issued by the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) established programming as a mandatory subject at junior high schools. Furthermore, the ministry is considering the same measure at elementary schools from FY2020.

Megumi first became interested in robots when she joined the Science Club during her first year at the Tamagawa Academy Lower Secondary Division. She has always enjoyed science. Megumi liked the unique smell emitted by solder when joining together metallic components, and she became engrossed in assembling radios. She was thrilled to hear classical music being played by the radio which she had assembled.

In the Science Club, Megumi made robots. The robots had a height and width of about 20 centimeters. Upon seeing a line-follower robot which followed a vertical black line drawn on a white background, Megumi’s interest in manufacturing fully blossomed. In addition to her activities in the Science Club, she built robots during the independent research part of her regular classes.

Megumi is the youngest child in her family of five people, and she is the only one in her family to show an interest in robots. Her passion for robots is of entirely her own.

Since then, during her 6 years at junior high school and high school, Megumi had competed in the Kanto Preliminaries (December) and advanced to the RoboCup Japan Open (March) which offers winners the chance to compete overseas. However, she continued to encounter hardships on her path to victory.

Megumi repeatedly improved her robots, changed models, and consulted with her instructors. Sometimes, outside of school, she even sought technical instruction from teams which had won other robotic events.

When taking entrance examinations for university, Megumi took advantage of the rules which stated that each team must consist of at least two people to register three people to her team. This enabled Megumi to join the team while prioritizing studying for exams.

Every year of competing was filled with drama, and it took seven years for Megumi to earn the right to represent Japan. Since rules state that competitors must be younger than 20 years old, it was her last chance.

Even while encountering difficulties, Megumi enjoys creating robots to the point where she loses track of time. Sometimes, she didn’t eat her lunch until 4 pm. She even reminded herself of going outside and getting some fresh air on some days. These episodes show the depth of her passion for robots.

Desire to help people in the future

When she first met her teammate of the last four years, he was still in the fifth grade at elementary school.
“He’s gotten much taller and is now taller than me,” says Megumi with a wry smile.

“In the future, I want to help people through robotics,” she says.

Megumi takes action to make robots that contribute to the development of society in the near future. The opportunity to participate in an international competition has broadened the scope of her dreams.

RoboCup: Past venues
1st 1997 Nagoya 11th 2007 Atlanta (USA)
2nd 1998 Paris (France) 12th 2008 Suzhou (China)
3rd 1999 Stockholm (Sweden) 13th 2009 Graz (Austria)
4th 2000 Melbourne (Australia) 14th 2010 Singapore
5th 2001 Seattle (USA) 15th 2011 Istanbul (Turkey)
6th 2002 Japan/Korea (Fukuoka/Busan) 16th 2012 Mexico City (Mexico)
7th 2003 Padova (Italy) 17th 2013 Eindhoven (Netherlands)
8th 2004 Lisbon (Portugal) 18th 2014 Joao Pessoa (Brazil)
9th 2005 Osaka 19th 2015 Hefei (China)
10th 2006 Bremen (Germany) 20th 2016 Leipzig (Germany)

*Held every year for a period of seven days in July. Some competitions attract more than 100,000 visitors.

Further information
Etymology of the word of robot
The word of robot was first used in a play by the Czech writer Capek. It comes from the Czech word of robota, which means to work. (according to the Daijisen Language Dictionary)
Initiatives in Japan
With the goal of establishing a science- and technology-oriented nation, the supervisory agency, RoboCupJunior Japan and the nonprofit organization, the RoboCup Japanese National Committee are increasing opportunities for children to experience manufacturing and are cultivating robotics instructors. They are also developing and implementing scientific education content which uses robots and can be taken by young students throughout Japan.
Performance of Japanese teams at 19th RoboCup

In the five leagues in which Japanese teams competed, two teams finished in First Place for individual teams, while another team finished in Third Place. Furthermore, the five teams won Division Awards respectively (according to survey by RoboCupJunior Japan). At the 20th RoboCup, 15 Japanese teams consisting of 38 competitors will take on the world.