The Falcons return home from RoboCup 2017, the annual world cup of robot football, as winners of the Technical Challenge and exceed expectations in the tournament.

The Falcons, ASML's robot football team, set off for RoboCup 2017 in Japan with the aim of raising their ranking to sixth place, from the eighth place achieved last year. They've proudly returned as winners of the Technical Challenge and beat their target, coming fifth in the tournament.


"We came eighth out of nine teams last year, and in the Technical Challenge we were always last," says Jaap Vos, the captain of Falcons. "This time we won it by preparation - we put real efforts in to make this happen." For the month leading up to the tournament, team members voluntarily worked in the evenings to increase passing and shooting accuracy by more than 50% and improve the collision avoidance rate by 70%. "We demonstrated all the improvements in the challenge," added Jaap.

New technical challenges are introduced every year at RoboCup to encourage development of new skills not previously needed in the main tournament. The Technical Challenge award this year consisted of three subtasks: autonomous passing and shooting skills, self-localization and obstacle detection, and passing the ball without WiFi connection. The Falcons beat all the other teams by scoring in all the three challenges with its new weapon: the lob shot. This function was programmed within three weeks by Raf van Son, an electromechanical engineer, whose daily work is designing hardware for the EUV scanner and source.

"Winning the Technical Challenge is tough - but that's what ASMLers do on a daily basis: solving difficulties," says Jaap. "Earning first prize clearly shows that our robots are all-round players. Our robots now shoot like professionals instead of amateurs."

The captain also pointed out that their success couldn't have been achieved without the full support from colleagues in Japan. The day before the Technical Challenge event, the Falcons found out that all the batteries couldn't be charged due to the different voltage in Japan. Local colleagues from the Yokkaichi office immediately helped the team find a life-saving voltage transformer in 50 minutes. "The only thing we had to do was to collect the transformer from a local store. Without their swift help, we wouldn't have been able to operate our robots at all," says Jaap. "It was heartwarming to see people sympathize with our robots and team," added Falcons member Ronald van der Weide.

Now enjoying the sweet taste of victory, the Falcons are determined to catch up more quickly in the tournament. "We are moving from a lower region to a middle region and are set to enter into the top three. At RoboCup 2017, the Falcons sent a clear message: we are a team to be reckoned with, we're no longer a junior team anymore, and we're about to play with the big boys," says Jaap.

For more information, please contact Jaap Vos.

The Falcons showed significant steps towards maturity at the Portuguese Open 2017. This year’s European championship featured a total of seven teams in the Middle Size League robot soccer competition. With surpassing their rival Carpe Noctem and claiming the third podium spot for themselves, the Falcons can look back on a very successful tournament.

Since the last World Championships in July, the team has shown sustained effort to improve both the hardware and software for the six soccer robots. For instance, a new world model (which keeps track of known objects on the field) has been developed, featuring enhanced localization and tracking of the robots, ball and obstacles. As the robots also drive more precisely, they are now able to properly pass the ball to each other autonomously. This proved necessary indeed, as a recently introduced rule obliges the robots to do at least one pass before being allowed to score.

Read more: Success at the European Open 2017

Falcons returned from the World Championship RoboCup in Leipzig, Germany, where we put new software and hardware enhancements to the test against the top teams in the world.

One of the most encouraging aspects was how much ASML's robots had increased in reliability. In previous games two or sometimes three robots broke down, but we now ended most games with all five robots in the field. The new, built-from-scratch software had some hiccups during the setup days, but as soon as these were under control it turned out to be very stable and flexible. We now can change robot behaviors or strategy in the halftime breaks without a problem. 

Read more: Falcons Reflect on World Championship Leipzig
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