They built their very first robot 5 years ago. And just a couple years later, they’ve achieved their first international success. Compotes – a team of high school students from Bratislava – were competing at the World championship in robotic soccer – RoboCup Nagoya 2017 – over the past few days. In Japan, they’ve reached 3rd place in the superteams’ tournament and also won the Best Presentation Award for showcasing their creations.
This international competition of autonomous robots in soccer promotes research and development of artificial intelligence (AI). Annually, teams from all over the world enter the competition. The Compotes team competing at the event consisted of three talented gentlemen from Slovakia – Ján (19), Gregor (17) and Matej (18).
“At RoboCup Nagoya 2017 we’ve managed to achieve 3rd place in the superteams’ tournament and ended up 13th in the individual teams’ competition,” recapped Gregor. Directly at the event, which took place from 27th to 31st July, they also presented their robots and ultimately won the Best Presentation title awarded by an international jury. And even though Compotes lost two games against rival teams from Japan and Singapore, the Slovak youngsters maintain a positive outlook: “These matches were a great lesson and showed us the direction for constructing our robots in the future,” Ján noted.
A remarkably successful year
The Bratislava-based team has had quite a successful year so far, including achievements at both local and international events. However, they consider their greatest success to be the victory at the Slovak National Championship: “We finally managed to end the dominance of the team from Topoľčany,” admitted the third member of Compotes, Matej. This year the team also took 1st place at the Open Championship of Slovenia, 2nd place at RoboCup Austria Open and another victory at RoboCup Italia Open.
Funding still the biggest obstacle
The guys from Compotes first got into robotics thanks to an extracurricular class at the Comprehensive High School of St. Francis of Assisi, led by Pavel Petrovič – a lecturer at the Faculty of mathematics, physics and informatics at Comenius University in Bratislava. And they have learned the basics of electronics and programming attending a summer camp for youth interested in electronics.
The boys believe that Slovakia has the talented people and know-how to be successful in the AI field: “There are many skilled and hard-working people here. And even in a small Central-European country like Slovakia, there are numerous opportunities to start with robotics.” However, funding proved complicated to obtain. “Naturally, with better funding you can build more advanced things and be more competitive,” Gregor explained. Developing a functional robot is indeed expensive and the guys are usually forced to look for the most affordable way when creating a new model.
“We don’t have the money for costly solutions that some of our competitors use,” adds Ján. For example, in Nagoya only Compotes’ robots utilized smartphones instead of specialized cameras. They are hoping to address this issue in the future and are also considering a purchase of new, more powerful engines to boost competitiveness.
At the moment, young talents rely primarily on funding from private sponsors. Resco was among the companies that helped to finance Compotes trip to Japan. The team initially attended Resco’s own mobile application development hackathon, MADhack. Afterwards they asked whether the company would be interested in helping with their journey to the World Championship.
“We’ve seen what they can do, their enthusiasm and talent already during MADhack. It was a pleasure to support the guys at a global stage. Resco is an IT company focused on developing new technologies, so AI and robotics was a natural fit. And we believe in supporting talented youth in various ways – creating an environment that encourages continuous growth, providing exciting opportunities, and enabling to gain invaluable experience,” concluded Resco’s PR Specialist, Lucia Zimanová.