Robotics trip to Bonn
The Robotics activity takes place each week in the Physics labs, led by Mr Hunter. Pupils from all years work in teams to produce football-playing robots and recently travelled to Bonn to compete against their German counterparts. This was a practice competition before the national RoboCup rounds later in the year. Gabriel Strain recounts the experience in his diary below.
Friday 25th February. Day of Departure.
After an uneventful minibus journey to Manchester, and some unnerving check-in routines, we boarded our Germanwings flight to Bonn-Cologne from Manchester International airport. We landed after what felt like a ten minute island hop, in Bonn-Cologne. German efficiency was immediately apparent, as our luggage was waiting patiently for us on the conveyor belt. We then met our assigned guest families who were very welcoming. George Ainscough was billeted with a Doppelganger, and I swear I saw another imposter running around Bonn; it became difficult to tell who was who. We went to our new homes and after a pleasant dinner and many games of cards, we got to sleep.
Saturday 26th February. Veedels-Zoch Festival and Competition Preparation.
We were all woken at much the same time, and soon discovered that breakfast was just as important as dinner in Germany. Although my group was exactly seven minutes early, everybody else soon arrived at the Deutsch Museum in Bonn, the location of the practice and of the competition. We were blown away by the complexity and the quality of the German teams’ Robots; nevertheless we soldiered on with laptop in hand and palm on face. George, James Alton and William Donlon vowed not to sleep until the programs were finished, and four hours later we left the Deutsch Museum.
A couple of tram journeys and a short walk into Bonn took us right to the heart of the Veedels-Zoch festival celebrations, which at first glance simply seemed to be bizarrely dressed men and women drinking beer and listening to obscure German pop music. Then came Magnus (Whittle) of Arabia in full festive dress. However as we got onto the main streets we saw the wagons, tractors and trucks carrying bands, Haribos and wooden castles. Bags were readied, and many a ‘karmelle’ (or ‘sweet’ ) was collected. Somebody evidently had an excess of Mentos, for several thousand individually wrapped lemon flavored ones were thrown at us alone. After the Specials tribute had passed us twice, we boarded the tram again and headed for central Bonn.
Mass at Bonn Cathedral was in German, but with the help of Mr Morley’s pre-prepared English to German translation booklet we were able to decipher a few of the simpler words. The surplus Mentos came in handy on returning to our temporary homes as poker chips, and the gambling continued into the evening.
Sunday 27th February. Day of Competition.
Breakfast was good, although a little early, since we had to be at the Deutsch Museum at 9:00am. Apprehensive about the forthcoming competition, when we arrived we headed upstairs and began the final tests and additions to our Robots, which began to look even simpler after we saw those of some of other teams: many changes and calibrations were made. The following account of the games is all from the perspective of “The People’s Robot” team.
Our first game was arguably our worst, as we played the all-girls team who ended up in the final. Eventually the score emerged as 4-1 to the girls, and we only scored because their complex Robots kept breaking. We, however, were proud of the goals our Robots scored (although less so of the second, as it was in the wrong net). The Robots’ tendency to stab us in the back and sneak an own-goal in while we weren’t looking turned out to be a problem for the majority of the Stonyhurst teams throughout the day!
The second game was against a rival team from Stonyhurst, “Chow, Choy & Co”. The match was more like Robot Wars than Robot soccer, as none of the machines on the pitch had any sense of direction or spatial awareness, and falling over was added to our list of ‘things to fix when we get back home’. The final score was 2-2, three of the goals being scored by ourselves. It was around this time that a mass ordering of pizza was undertaken by everyone who temporarily occupied the Deutsche Museum; this turned out to be more than problematic for the understaffed café.
Our last game was fought against a German team of one, with a Robot similar in build to our two. This game was riddled with difficulties on both sides, with opposing Robots ceasing to function simultaneously, after which a frantic rush ensued to get ours ready before our opponent. The game ended in a 2-2 draw, with us typically scoring all the goals.
Monday 28th February. Return to England.
Waking up at 6:00am, we ate breakfast in a haze of missed sleep and jet lag. After waving goodbye to our host families, we took a short train ride to the airport.
The entire trip was enjoyed by everybody, and although we may not have won, the knowledge and practical experience we gained was invaluable. Special thanks go to Mr Morley and Mr Hunter, for the organization and execution of it all.