Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory dominated RoboCup’s international humanoid robot soccer competition for the second year in a row, once again winning the Adult- and Kid-sized humanoid soccer robot competitions.

The robotics laboratory, part of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, took first place finishes in the Adult Size class with the 5-foot humanoid robot CHARLI-2 and the Kid Size class with the miniature-humanoid-robots DARwIn-OP. The latter team was a joint effort of Virginia Tech undergraduate and graduate engineering students and their counterparts from the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Engineering in Philadelphia.

“This is two in a row,” said an excited Dennis Hong, founder and director of the Virginia Tech robotics lab, and an associate professor of mechanical engineering, as he and his students cheered, hugged and posed for pictures at Mexico City’s World Trade Center, where the 16th annual RoboCup competition took place. Added Jack Newton of Blacksburg,  a rising senior in mechanical engineering, and a member of Team CHARLI: “It’s amazing. Actually, I’m kind of speechless.”

Team DARwIn, in the final match of the Kid-Sized competitions, beat Japan’s CiT Brians, 8-2, on June 23.  Earlier in the day, Team CHARLI, comprised only of Virginia Tech students, won 3-0 over Tsinghua Hephaestus of China.

A combined Virginia Tech/University of Pennsylvania team also entered, for the first time, the Mid-Sized humanoid robot division, commonly referred to as Teen-Sized, but did not make final rounds. The robots were built from remainder parts of robots at the respective Blacksburg and Philadelphia campuses, said Hong.

An earlier incarnation of CHARLI-2 won the Louis Vuitton Cup at RoboCup 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, bringing it to Blacksburg, Va., and the United States, for the first time. This year, a German team was selected as the winner of the cup. During its stay at Virginia Tech, the cup was housed at Randolph Hall in a display case with the first version of CHARLI in the main lobby.

RoboCup is considered one of the most respected competitions in the robotics research community, and proposes a soccer match between full-size humanoid robots against the human World Cup human champions -- and win -- by the year 2050. In addition to the soccer portions, RoboCup also features competitions in robot rescue efforts, robotic simulation, and a robot dance competition for youth.

CHARLI-2 (that’s for Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence) is the second in a series of adult-sized, autonomous humanoid robots built at Virginia Tech. The first version, known as CHARLI-L (the "L" is for lightweight) debuted in spring 2010, and made national headlines, appearing on the cover of Popular Science and Robot magazines. More recently, CHARLI-2 appeared on the cover of The Washington Post’s Sunday magazine, in November 2011.

It is the second year in a row that the laboratory has used and won with the DARwIn-OP humanoid robots, developed together with Purdue University, University of Pennsylvania, and the robotics company, Robotis Co., with sponsorship from the National Science Foundation. About 400 units are currently being used world-wide for robotics research and education, according to Hong.

DARwIn-OP proved quite popular at this year’s RoboCup. A total of eight teams used the OP ’bots, which are a fully open source design -- both software and hardware. All info on the hardware is to be shared online for free, including detailed plans and drawings, manuals for fabrication and assembly. The Japanese team that played Team DARwIn in the final round built their own robots.

Hong started project DARwIn (that’s Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligent) in 2003 to study human locomotion and humanoid robot design. DARwIn 1 was introduced in 2004 and was a revolutionary humanoid robot prototype at the time, and was followed by several incarnations since.
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