Successes and Insights at the Austrian Robotics Competition


A group of seven members poses in the picture together with a robot dog, a mobile robot and two cars.

The team put on their best smiles. In the photo (from left to right) Oskari Virtanen, Timo Mäenpää, Siva Ariram, Toni Tolonen, Antti Tikanmäki, and Matti Tikanmäki. Kari Anunti is lying down in the front row.

The Oulu Robotics Team started its journey towards the robotics competition at the end of May. The competition trip has now come to an end, and many lessons and experiences have been added to the backpack.

This year the European robot competition ELROB (European Land Robot Trial) was held in Eggendorf, Austria on 30 May – 3 June 2022. In the competition organized for the eleventh time, the teams participated in their pre-selected sections, where the robots had to perform various tasks indoors or outdoors.

For the fifth time, the Oulu Robotics Team from the University of Oulu’s biomimetics and intelligent systems research group BISG and Probot Oy headed to the competition. After six months of preparations, the Oulu Robotics Team started its journey in the last week of May. Finally, a team of three cars, several robots, and seven team members headed to Austria. However, a larger group of experts from Probot Oy and the University of Oulu participated in the preparations for the race. Some of them stayed on to support the race from Oulu.

Journey Towards the Competition

During the three-day outward journey, the team’s roadmap included several countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Austria. The team worked on the road, had interesting conversations, and admired the beautiful landscapes. On the way, the team members had time to get to know each other better, which improved the team spirit even more.

The highlights of the trip were the Lithuanian farmlands and the beautiful old town of Bialystock. While visiting the shopping centers, they also found a couple of amazing slides, which of course had to be tested.

Three cars are parked in front of a beautiful building in Bialystok.
Team cars in Poland, Bialystok.

The Birth of The Battle Pier

ELROB was organized for the eleventh time this year. This was the fifth time for a joint team from the University of Oulu and Probot Oy to participate in the competition. Only the line-up has changed from time to time. So you could say that the competition has become a tradition.

“ELROB is an interesting event and a great opportunity to test the functionality of your own devices.” Says team member Timo Mäenpää.

The Oulu Robotics Team received an honorable mention for being the only team that participated in all the sections of the competition. The goal was to get one meter over the starting line, and the goal was clearly achieved. The competition also involves active networking. The Oulu Robotics Team’s robot dogs and a mobile robot called The Battle Pier attracted a lot of interest. The Battle Pier was assembled on the spot on the spur of the moment.

“We took tire modules with us for testing. We aluminum frame, but it was too hard to sit on. Looking around, I noticed wooden boards, which we decided to bolt to the base. When the whole package was assembled and ready to go, we tested whether it could hold the whole group. It lasted well and kept moving!” Kari Anunti tells.

The team named the platform The Battle Pier, which was then used to roll around the race site and transport goods. Other teams also received transport assistance.

The Battle Pier, a mobile robot built at the competition site proved to be very useful in the competition.

The excitement only started to build right before the performance. One laptop broke, and there were a lot of last minute adjustments. The Oulu Robotics Team had to wait to see if everything would make it on time. During the competition, the team compiled a list of shortcomings and successes in preparation for the next competition. The team believes that the secret to this year’s success is not only technical prowess, but also good situational awareness and improvisation skills.

Last-minute preparations before the scenario starts.

Four Scenarios

The ELROB competition consisted of sections, or scenarios, in which teams performed various logistics, guarding, and rescue tasks, alternately indoors and outdoors.

The first scenario was the Convoying scenario, in which two vehicles weighing more than 1500 kg had to drive autonomously along a predefined route. The route presented various challenges, such as escaping from a dead end and changing the lead vehicle. However, the team had only one autonomous vehicle at their disposal. Packing was not possible autonomously, but following the front car went well. The team came third in the scenario.

Next up was the Urban Recon scenario, where the task was to search the rooms of a deserted building for license plates. At the same time, the robot observed the environment. Each room was confronted with different obstacles. Challenges included stairs and one doorway that the robot could not pass through. However, the team managed to find up to seven shields.

In the Mule scenario, the task was to transport as much load as possible between two points. The team decided to have a six-wheeled robot pull The Battle Pier, on which a 100 kg load was placed. However, the large load and connectivity problems between the devices led to the scenario’s termination. Having learned from the experience, the team already has clear ideas for the next races.

In the last CasEvac scenario, four victims had to be located and rescued. The robot searched and found all the victims. After finding the victim, the robot’s entry route was blocked, and it had to find a new route back to the rescue station. The victims were transported by a dragline attached to the robot’s arm. However, the pull cord became entangled around the pull ring, preventing the robot from applying its full pulling power. All the victims were rescued, but time ran out as the last one was being carried. The team’s official result was three rescued victims.

We are still waiting for rankings from the three scenarios.

A team member controls a mobile robot outdoors wearing a team shirt.
The sun warmed up the race venue. In the photo, Timo Mäenpää is controlling the robot.

The Start of a New Competition Career

Oulu Robotics Team’s cooperation went well.

“We have a great, motivated team. We have all the skills we need to get to the race!” Matti Tikanmäki says.

In the evenings, the team reviewed the day’s events over a pint of beer. Goals were achieved with a good feeling. The Oulu Robotics Team will continue to participate in ELROB.

“We even considered participating in other competitions. This is a bit like the start of a new competition career.” Tikanmäki says.

When the competition was over, the team headed home to Finland. One car, however, will continue via the Alps to Paris for the VivaTech fair. At Europe’s biggest startup and tech event, #BadProbotDog will be pawing at the Unitree point.

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