Holbrook hosts European robot dance-off

Holbrook robotics club

On Wednesday 15th of July, Holbrook Primary School will play host to Europe for RoboCup, the worlds largest Robotics Dance Competition. Two robotics teams, one from Germany and one from Italy, will be visiting the school for a robot dance-off. Holbrook’s RoboClub, the DigiMinds, sponsored by the Ant Group, are the reigning UK champions in the dance league of RoboCup.  As the DigiMinds could not afford the trip to China to take part in the World Finals this Summer, they invited other European teams to join them for a friendly European competition.

From Bremen, in Germany, 8 children who came third in their national competition, arrived on Tuesday, along with 5 Italian children from Brescia, who topped their national league but also could not afford the trip to the Far East. The children are accompanied by parents and teachers, as well as several home-made robots.

On Wednesday morning, the three teams competed in front of an invited audience of children, parents, sponsors and local media, to perform their Robotic Dances. Each dance incorporates children and robots, dancing together in perfect harmony. The robots are constructed, programmed and choreographed by the children, with help from an adult mentor. Each dance is themed with the children and robots wearing carefully designed costumes, often with elaborate background props. Holbrook have themed their dance around the busy movement of crates and cargo at Felixstowe Docks. The German’s dance pays homage to bees, while the Italian’s dance involves a robotic Hispaniola, en route for Treasure Island.

Holbrook’s dance has been many months in preparation. The children began working on the robots in September, and they were not finished until March. In Spring, the team took part in the national finals in Rugby. The judges were impressed with the way that the children interacted with the robots with the use of ultra-sound sensors, and how the robots were carefully synchronised to the music. For the dance, the school’s music teacher, Mrs Kerr, recorded a special song, called Felixstowe Docks, and the children had help choreographing their own movements, with support from the Jerwood Dance centre.

They were very proud to be crowned UK champions, especially as this was their first year in the competition. Although they were disappointed that the World Finals were too far away this year, the DigiMinds are very proud to be hosting their own mini-version of the RoboCup World finals, within their small rural primary school.

Team Building

The two international teams  arrived on the Tuesday morning, meaning that they will also get to compete in Holbrook’s annual sports day. On Wednesday afternoon, after the robots have been packed away, the children joined together in a team building activity at Alton Water. The children were placed in mixed groups, and worked together, overcoming language barriers, to build a working raft, which they raced around the reservoir.

Richard Williams, Team Mentor for the DigiMinds and computing coordinator at Holbrook Primary School. “We are exceptionally proud to have hosted some of the best RoboDance teams from across Europe. It is wonderful that we can share this with our whole school and community. People are so excited. I hope that this will inspire many more children to join our robotics club, and get involved with programming. We aim to represent the UK at RoboCup 2016 in Leipzig next Summer”.

Katja Cullman, Team Mentor for Horner Bienenschwarm, and Computing Teacher at Ratsgymnasium Osnabruck, ” We are excited to be at Holbrook. This is a wonderful opportunity for our children. Many have never left our country before and they are proud to be representing Germany. Our children are pleased also to be taking part in the Sports Day. We are here to have fun, learn from others, and make new friends.”

Felix Powell, DigiMinds team member, aged 10. “It was disappointing not to go to China, but I am so excited that we get to have our own RoboCup competition right here in Holbrook. One of the German girls and her mum are staying with us in my house. I am making them loom bands in UK colours so they will remember their trip to Holbrook.”

Leo Thomas, DigiMinds team member, aged 8. “My dad is helping to make the trophies and certificates. He had help from Mr Williams to make a design that can be printed on our school’s 3D printer. It looks awesome. I hope we win first place so that we can keep the trophy in our school forever.”

Louisa Cuddihy, DigiMinds team member aged 9. “My big Sister Katie went to RoboCup 2014, which was in Brazil. She inspired me to join the DigiMinds. It’s incredible. We won the UK finals in RoboDance, but we also won the CoSpace (A rescue simulation league) competition too. Then we got to compete in the Iran Open, which was cool. (It was a remote competition where the children created a program which was emailed through and uploaded to a robot in Tehran) And we won that too.”