Computer science and engineering seem to be at odds with sports. The first two require years of study, complex mathematics and learning the languages of binary and basic. The latter requires adrenaline, an open space and maybe a uniform. But today we saw the two worlds collide in the form of “RoboCup”, where universities from around the world try to make robots play soccer. It’s more challenging (and exciting) than it sounds.

Our guest speaker, Tim Wiley, showed us the surprisingly interesting world of robotic sports. Starting in 1999, and using a robotic dog named “Sony Aibo”, university students studying robotics around the world tried (and often failed) to program these robots to perform soccer. And every year, these same students participate in a world cup, facing off against each other to see which team is the best. But today, they’ve replaced the old, four-legged Sony Aibo’s with more advanced, humanoid robots. And these matches are just as exciting as ordinary soccer games.

The classroom’s mood was electric as they watched the short videos of RoboCup, cheering as the Australian team scored goals against the other teams. Watching our robots face off against the robots of Sweden, Chile, Germany and Luxemburg was immensely fun, from the goal kicks to the numerous moments in which a robot accidentally tripped over itself trying to score a goal or even just trying to turn a corner a bit too fast. At the end of the lesson, our guest speaker told us about the 2019 RoboCup, being held right here in Sydney, so if you’re interested in seeing robots kick a ball around, make sure you buy tickets for the matches.