Iranian robots do battle on the football pitch

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Students at Tehran's Computer Science Faculty of the Science and Technology University are putting their robotic creations through their paces ahead of this month's RoboCup event.

Their strength they say is in their programming skills because they have serious problems accessing necessary parts for their robots due to international sanctions.

The international community fears Iran is developing a nuclear weapon; Iran insists its work is for peaceful purposes.

Many parts needed for building robots have double functions and could be used for military purposes.
They are covered by the Western sanctions and are therefore impossible to obtain for Iranians. So students say they have focused on software design instead.

“Since 2010 we made no major changes in our robots, we just made small changes to our parts. They have remained the same in mechanical and electronic aspects,” explains Seyed Ali Ghassemi Saeed, a member of the university's RoboCup team members.

Iran played host to its eighth international RoboCup competition this month.

Attended by participants from 15 countries, IranOpen 2013 gives an opportunity for students to demonstrate their achievements in robotics, programming and artificial intelligence.

But despite the international competition these students' main rivals are another local university.

“In programming and software, which were our main focus for this competition, we worked on game strategy. We watched films of other teams, especially Qazvin university team which is our main opponent, we made a lot of analysis to defeat that team under any conditions.” says Seyed Ali Salehi, a member of the university's RoboCup team members.

The event, organized by Iranian RoboCup National Committee and Qazvin Azad University consists of 8 leagues.

The soccer league attracts the most intense competition, plus dozens of fans and technology enthusiasts every year.

The competition is somehow different from real-life sport rivalries.

Opponents help each other to fix technical software and hardware issues, and even continue to work together on online forums throughout the year.

Teams from 14 countries, including the U.S, Japan, China, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, Czech Republic, India, Pakistan, Colombia and Australia participated in this regional competition.

More than 1200 teams initially applied to participate in the competition, out of which 390 teams managed to qualify for the final round.

The foreign participants here say they are impressed by the technology and equipment demonstrated by the Iranian teams.

“Yes I've been very impressed by the technical quality of the work here. A lot of the robots I've seen certainly stand equal to the rest of the world and the quality of other events, other international events. I think students here are very enthusiastic, they are very technically-skilled, and a lot of the work I've seen here I'd like to say is at least equal to what I've seen elsewhere in the world,” says Bill Smart, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Oregon state University who is visiting the competition.

Arnoud Visser from the University of Amsterdam agrees “the Iranian teams are really at front about what they've learnt which needs good programmers and also scientific programmers. It means that they should be able to read what's currently state of the art in the literature and translate that into programs that are needed for the tasks at hand. We have a very challenging task here.”

Aila, an international team member says “So far I'm very impressed, especially by the Iranian team that are doing really well, because they've got some very good hardware that even we don't have. So they are a bit more advanced than we are so they're very good. And there are only three teams competing at the moment in the ??. Competition, and I think we are second up to now after the Iranian team. And also about the venue it's really nice. I think It's my first RoboCup ?.. competition but the ?.. state is very good.”

The Tehran event was established to give teams a chance to show their skills to RoboCup leagues Technical Committees who can observe teams qualities for RoboCup World Competitions qualifications.

Around 2500 young technicians and students compete for three days in different leagues, including RoboCup Soccer, RoboCup Rescue as well as RoboCop ROV, a league for remotely operated vehicles.