Campus News

Northern Bites Chomps the Competition in Germany

Story posted April 20, 2007

Team Members
Winning team members.

Northern Bites, Bowdoin's celebrated RoboCup team chewed up the competition in Hannover, Germany, finishing third overall in the German Open, April 17-21, 2007. They competed with teams from Australia, Turkey, Greece, and Germany.

The RoboCup competition, which is one of several international robotics competitions held annually, pits top-level teams of soccer-playing robot dogs. Competitions are conducted annually by the international artificial intelligence research community to encourage robotics research. Playoffs culminate in a world championship, which will be held this summer in Atlanta.

Up-To-Date Robot Blog

Follow the play-by-play account of Bowdoin's own Northern Bites robotic soccer dogs, as they pitted it out against top players in Germany.

Visit Team Northern Bites' blog.

"After these results, we're probably the fourth or fifth best team in the world right now," says Computer Science Chair Eric Chown, who founded the student-led Northern Bites in 2005.

"The day we beat a team called Cerberus, from Turkey, I knew we had made it to an elite status in RoboCup," adds Chown. "They are among the top ten in the world, and from the accounts of the game, we handled them pretty easily."

Teaching kept Chown stateside this year, but he kept close tabs on team members Henry Work '06, Joho Strom '09, Jeremy Fishman '09, and Tucker Hermans '09, as they pitted their wits and circuits against international competitors in Germany.

In a daily blog, the Northern Bites team members recounted blow-by-blow details from the matches, including a touchy moment when the goalie broke his leg during the second half of one 20-minute match.

"In a nice bit of international cooperation, the team helping us fix the situation was the very team we played next — current world champs, the Nubots from Australia," notes Chown.

Northern Bites scores a goal against number-one ranked Australia.

Although Northern Bites ultimately succumbed in that heat (10-3), Chown says "our team gave them as tough a battle as they've ever had. Nubots only gave up three goals in all nine games of last year's world championships. They gave up three goals to us alone in one day."

Chown comes by his pride honestly enough.

When he first entered Bowdoin into the RoboCup competitions in 2005, Northern Bites consisted of one student and a robot dog with serious sight problems. Still, Bowdoin was the only undergraduate entrant in a sea of top graduate-level artificial intelligence research institutions in the world.

By 2006, Northern Bites had gained members and "chops." The team placed fifth at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, beating out Brown University, then traveled to Bremen, Germany for the world championships, where they finished tenth.

Chown and Northern Bites team members have made extensive improvements in the robots' visual and spatial programming, he says, allowing students to better control their team strategies and formations. Hopes are high that the team will place in the top five at the RoboCup World Championship 2007.

"Our goal this year is to be really good," beams Chown. "So far, so good. We have such fantastic kids working on it. They are brilliant students who work extremely hard, mostly in their spare time. I couldn't be more proud of them."

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