Day Ten

We started our last full day in Japan with a long trek to Nagoya Castle. The castle dates back to the 1600s and was kept mostly intact until parts of it were destroyed in World War II. Those parts were soon after restored. The castle was Japan’s first official national treasure. We spent most of the morning there before heading back to Nagoya Station. Some of us went back to the hotel, as after the past week and a half many of us are exhausted. The rest of the team shopped around the mall by Nagoya station.

The whole team went out for one last dinner together, partially to commemorate the trip and partially because one of our own, Morgan Williams, had a birthday today. We went to a shabu-shabu restaurant, which consists of a pot of broth in the middle of the table. You pour in vegetables and cook very thinly sliced meat yourself. After you are done with the meat they use the broth to cook noodles. We then got ice cream to truly celebrate her birthday.

This will be the last blog post of RoboCup 2017, as tomorrow we will be travelling back to the states. We improved greatly from last year, nearly tripling our previous score. We also absorbed the culture as much as possible. Thank you all for following along, and check out our Facebook for last minute photos and videos from the trip!


Day Nine


On day nine our whole team collectively took a breath and relaxed for the first time since getting back to Nagoya. Not advancing to finals was bittersweet, as that meant we were done competing, but we also had a chance to watch the finals.
One quick update from yesterday’s blog, Noah Swindlehurst unfortunately did not advance into the finals of the drone flying competition. However, I do have a few photos and a video of his flying skills.

When we arrived this morning at the RoboCup, the first thing we did was take apart Robert the robot and pack it back up into cases. We then took a few hours to watch the finals of the rescue competition along with robot soccer and the juniors of rapidly manufactured robots.
As for the rescue robot finals, it was dramatic. The standings finished with iRap robot from Thailand in second place and YRA from Iran winning. iRap was winning going into finals, but partway through one of the runs their robot started smoking and eventually caught fire. Everyone was okay, but the Thai team was pretty disappointed.
Later in the day, the whole team went out to Karaoke to bond. I would give you the highlights from the night, but every song was performed so well I don’t think any one took the cake.


Day Eight

For the final days of preliminaries, we started the day off extremely strong. Stephanie Roberts attempted the center task once again. Yesterday, she earned four points on it. Today, she increased our score on the task to twenty, with four multiplier points and five full runs of the course.

She continued her run of success when she started the align task, where the robot needs to cross a bridge of two planks set to the distance of the robot’s treads. We’ve tried the task both of the other days and failed each time, but today, Stephanie earned eight points, with two cycles of the course and four readiness multipliers.

After those successes, Jack Rickman was up to attempt the omni-directional pipes.

In this task, we get points for four things the grasper can do: inspect, touch, rotate, and extract. To inspect we need to position our grasper in such a way that the camera attached to it can see inside the pipe. Touching the top of the pipe with the grasper also gains a point. Points for rotation can only be won is the cap on top of the pipe rotates a full 180 degrees. Finally, after the grasper needs to pick up the cap and place it into a box to the side of the pipes to get points for extraction. After some technical difficulties, Jack managed to score two points on this task.

From there, we went on to the similar parallel pipes task. The task is the exact same, except the pipes are set up with a 90º angle with the ground. We got off on a bit of a rough start, but eventually Jack earned 12 points, 4 more than yesterday.

Unfortunately, that was where our triumphs stopped. Jack tried the negotiate task one last time, and we couldn’t navigate through all the makeshift rubble. Stephanie then attempted the hurdles challenge which involved going down two steps backwards, go up those steps forwards, and go down a step twice as steep. We were able to go down the first steps, but we couldn’t manage to ascend the stairs again.

Sadly, that was the end of our competing in RoboCup for 2017, as we did not qualify for finals tomorrow. On a happier note, Noah Swindlehurst qualified for the second round of drone flying, so keep a look out for updates about that on our Twitter. Check out our Facebook for photos from the trip.


Day Seven

We started day seven with a driver switch up, as Jack Rickman took the wheel for the align task. Unfortunately, issues with balance prevented us from gaining any points that round.

Those same issues with balance damaged our arm, which caused us to scramble to prepare for the next task: shielding. For shielding you need to take triangular prism blocks and create a wall with the pieces. We weren’t able to earn any points then, but we were successful on the next tasks.

Jack Rickman skillfully maneuvered our robot on the parallel pipes. Here there are multiple sets of 5 PVC pipes sticking up from the ground with caps on them. To complete the task you need to touch the center of the cap with the center of your grasper. We tapped three caps, so, with the readiness multipliers, we earned 8 points.

From there, Stephanie Roberts started driving again for one of the tasks she did yesterday, traverse. She greatly improved compared to yesterday, and we left that task with 32 more points.

Unfortunately, our luck didn’t last. When we moved on to the door task, our arm was malfunctioning. Carson Knoer tried his hardest with only the shoulder joint working, but it couldn’t be done.

After switching drivers once more back to Stephanie, we attempted the center task. Stephanie maneuvered through a corner which was narrowed to force the robot to take a sharp turn. She finished one run in the time allotted, earning four more point for the team. All in all, we ended the day with 47 points, almost doubling the amount of points we earned in the whole of last year’s competition.

Finally, at the end of the day they allowed all competitors to enter a drone flying contest. The hope is to compile data about how easy it is to train and teach novices how to fly a drone, so they used the competitors here to create a sample size. Many of the RKRS team partook in the opportunity. Thirty people went tonight, and the top ten are allowed to go on tomorrow. Check in on our Twitter to see if anyone from RKRS made it and take a look at more photos from the trip on our Facebook.


Day Six

Day six is here and with it comes the competition. We started the day off strong, earning points on the crossover task, where the robot needs to traverse uneven, slanted blocks. Congratulations to our driver on that task, Stephanie Roberts.

From there, we went to the cylindrical pipes, but, unfortunately, we did not have time to get our wrist working properly and complete the task. Carson Knoer was the driver for that task, and his infectious optimism has all of us convinced that we will be able to complete these tasks next time.

The next task was traverse, going up and down an incline. Stephanie was extremely successful and scored us the more points than in any task we have completed so far. We then continued to make improvements on our robot to prepare for the task of opening a door with the grasper and maneuvering through it. Unfortunately, we didn’t successfully complete that one. Carson is confident in his abilities, though, as there were connectivity issues between the monitors and the cameras which made seeing the door knob extremely difficult.

We then switched drivers back to Stephanie for the negotiation task: driving through a series of slanted pipes without breaking any pipes. With this task, as with all of them, it is important to remember that the driver can only see from the cameras positioned on the robot. While the task may look relatively simple, with only some of the information it is extremely challenging. We nearly completed this task, which is especially impressive considering only one team so far today has been successful. While we didn’t score any points, the run was a success, as we realized we could do one of the dexterity readiness tests. The number of points we earn on each task is multiplied by the number of readiness tests done. This means that being capable of the dexterity readiness tests could earn us many more points later on.

Our final task of the day was the align task. Matthew Nyberg drove the robot. While we didn’t earn any points, we have a game plan for the next time we attempt this task.

Another exciting opportunity for RKRS: Lauren Copland is a deputy judge for the Curb task (pictured below). She’s learned the ins and outs of the judging process while closely observing the competition’s robots. As always take a look at more photos from the trip on our Facebook and check in on our Twitter daily for more timely updates.


Day Five

Day five was a second set up and test day for the robots. Morgan Williams and I started interviewing the different teams and administrators at the request of the Test Director, Adam Jacoff. Look here for those videos after the competition has finished. Here are photos and videos from the day. Check out our Facebook for more photos of the trip and our Twitter for immediate updates about our progress.


Day Four

Day four was filled with setting up the robot for the competition. We have two days before the RoboCup officially starts to assemble and run tests on our robot.

The first thing we did was organize our workspace. Kudos to Morgan Williams and Sophie Herrmann for sorting and labeling every last tool. See below for part of the finished product.

After our pit was set up, we assembled the robot. The rest of the day was spent running tests and troubleshooting any problems that arose. We also spent plenty of time admiring the other robots in the room.

We had our first opportunity to talk to the other teams and check out their robots. After talking to other competitors and coaches, we learned that one reason teams keep coming back to RoboCup is the amount of interaction between teams. Collaboration is a key component of RoboCup. Oftentimes teams will compare the different ways they went about building various components of robots, like arms and tracks. Being the only high school in the major league, we gleaned as much information as possible in the hopes of continually improving our robot.

The day was filled with ups and downs, but the good news is that we have the entirety of tomorrow to run tests and make last minute improvements. The other good news is that the convention center is right next to Legoland.

It was a long day, we worked right up until they shut off the power and kicked us out. Hopefully we get a well deserved, good night’s sleep before getting up for another long day tomorrow. Follow our twitter here and like our Facebook page here for more photos and updates!


Day Three

We started out our third day in Kyoto with a couple hours of free time. We went to a few shops in Kyoto Station to pick up fans, chopsticks, incense, and anything else our previous day of cultural learning may have inspired us to buy.

From there, we walked to a subway station, experiencing one of the many ways Japan has made its cities more efficient: diagonal sidewalks.

From the subway we walked to our first scheduled event of the day: samurai lessons. We split into groups, and Ryu, our teacher, patiently instructed us not to attack the floor, as typically your enemies won’t be laying down. We stumbled through his instructions of the different strikes and learned the difference between a Katana and a broadsword (a katana has a one-sided blade while a broadsword is a double-edged sword).

The samurai were second highest in the social pyramid from roughly 1185 until 1868, directly under the Shogun. While there was an emperor during this period, it was mostly a ceremonial position and the Shogun were the actual rulers of Japan. The samurai were the military power who pledged loyalty to Shogun. We learned how to walk both with the dignity and distinction of a samurai and silently and quickly as they would during battle. Well, we were taught very well, but the amount of dignity we had and the amount of noise we made was probably not acceptable for the samurai.

Halfway through the lesson we changed into traditional kimonos, and we have never looked cooler. Ryu knew exactly what we were thinking, and he gave us a ten minute picture break. I’ve done my best to compile the photos, but if you are looking for a full catalogue it is probably best to check out everyone’s respective social medias.

The big finale of the lesson was a choreographed skit which showed off all the different moves we learned.

From our samurai lessons we went to Nishiki Market. There we shopped around more at local shops and found amazing restaurants. We found a few more shrines around, which showed how integral the shinto religion is in Japanese life and culture. Imagine walking through the Mall of America and suddenly, in between The Gap and a Cinnabon, there was a church, ornately decorated like a cathedral. Several people were praying in both shrines we visited.

About halfway through our time in the market we started to see men dressed in white chanting and clapping parading through the halls. We asked one of the men and learned it was part of the Kyoto Gion Matsuri.

It continues throughout all of July, but there is a huge parade on July 17th. This festival started in 869 in hopes of pleasing the gods during an epidemic. A local boy is chosen as a divine messenger, and he is not supposed to touch the ground from the 13th to the 17th. We believe this smaller parade was a more local ceremony, but we did see a boy we think was the divine messenger.

Finally, we made our way back to Kyoto Station and took the bullet train to Nagoya. Tomorrow we start work on the RoboCup, so check back for more updates. Follow our twitter here and like our Facebook page here for more updates.


Day Two

The second day showed the whole RoboCup team a look into the Japanese culture, and, speaking on behalf of everyone I talked to, it’s unlike anything we’ve experienced before. We started the day with a 30 minute bullet train ride from Nagoya to Kyoto, going roughly 200 miles per hour. That in and of itself mesmerized the whole group. Check out a time lapse of the whole ride on our twitter.

After quickly stopping at our hotel, we headed back to Kyoto Station to meet with our guides for the first activity of the day: a bike tour. We split into two groups, so I can only speak for half of us as to what all we did. However, it was a long and hot ride, but the heat was made up for by both the wind and the information. Over the course of the tour we learned a lot about the religions here in Japan. Our first stop was the 1st shrine built in Kyoto after the capital had moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. It was a shrine of prosperity. Before we could enter we needed to purify ourselves with water outside of the shrine.

We then learned how to pray at the shrines: toss a 5 yen coin into the receptacle, bow twice, clap twice, and bow once more. The shrines are from the Shinto religion, the Japanese religion that originated before Buddhism came over from China. These shrines are meant to focus on life: past life, present life, and future life.

We moved on from that shrine to a Buddhist temple, which focuses on the afterlife. We saw two such temples and learned they were both from a sect of Buddhism called Zen Buddhism. The different sects of Buddhism used to have an extreme amount of infighting, so these temples had each been burned down numerous times. Luckily, the violence stopped for the most part after around the 1500s, so the temples are still quite old.

After the temples we went to another shrine, this time one for beauty. We all spent a good few yen praying at that one. At this point we were all pretty hot so we stopped for slushie-like drinks at that shrine which was meant to make us more beautiful. The flavor was that of a fruit that was like a cross between an apple and a pear.

We biked from there up to the philosopher’s trail, where a prolific philosopher strolled through the forest to think. It is rumored that David Bowie used to live in a house near this trail. Then we went to the truth forest and saw what used to be a holy site.

All in all we biked upwards of 11 miles during the first half of the day.

We took a quick break for lunch, we all went for ramen. Then we got right back up and started on our walking tour. We combined our groups and started off going to a third temple where we saw a depiction of Canon, the goddess of mercy.

We then went to one final shrine, for business. It is famous for its over 1000 gates, each purchased by different companies. Disneyland and Universal Studios both have gates here. These gates need to be renewed, as they are wood, but the Kyoto prefectures gate was in stone and is permanent.

Finally, we went to the Geisha district. The Geishas are entertainers who stretch back for centuries. They start to train once they are 15, become Geishas once they are 20 or 21, and typically retire by the time they are 27. From there Geishas typically marry or become “mothers” (trainers) for aspiring Geishas. Geishas put on tea ceremonies. If you want to attend you need to be invited by a Geisha or referred by someone who is a regular or your hotel. They tea ceremonies are extremely expensive and you typically can only go to them if you go almost every day.

Thank you so much to our wonderful guide for both the walking tour and one group of the biking tour, Lulu. She catered the tour to our interests and did a wonderful job showing us the city. Okini, Lulu.


Day One

The whole team and the robot made it safely into Nagoya. Immediately as we exited customs, a Japanese media company came to interview us about the RoboCup. Stephanie Roberts stepped up to answer their questions about what the competition entails, whether or not we would win, and what our team name was. Unfortunately she blanked on the last question momentarily: “I was really stressed and nervous and forgot our team name for a second,” Stephanie said.

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After a long day of traveling we stayed near our hotel for a nice dinner in Nagoya. We had a relaxed night because early tomorrow morning we embark on our day trip to Kyoto, via bullet train. Look out for a longer update after the day trip. Follow our twitter here and like our Facebook page here for more updates.


Week Five

With just about twelve hours until the team starts the trek to Nagoya, I have a few final updates on the robot and a peak into what we will be doing once we arrive.

First of all, I have some final news on the arm. We have been following its progress for weeks, and the final result is here in the form of two videos. The first shows the arm with the grasper finally attached and moving.

This second video shows the grasper hand in action, grabbing a PVC pipe to replicate a door knob like what the robot will need to be able to open during the competition.

The third and final video shows the robot maneuvering through an obstacle course built to replicate the obstacle course at the RoboCup.

This week was mostly spent testing the robot and then packing it up to prepare for the long flight it and we have to Japan. This week has also built up much anticipation towards the trip outside of the competition. While the RoboCup is the primary event of the trip, we will also be experiencing as much of the Japanese culture as possible. “One goal is certainly to take in and appreciate Japanese culture while we are there, and I hope that an international experience touches each of [the students] to become better global citizens,” Ms. Kirsten Hoogenakker, the head of Benilde-St. Margaret’s engineering department who will be going on the trip with us, said.

One of the first events on the agenda will be a day trip to Kyoto via a bullet train, a high-speed Japanese train that can reach up to 320 kilometers per hour. We will be doing many cultural activities while there, including a bike tour and samurai lessons. We will also have time to explore Nagoya and experience many Japanese foods and markets.

Thank you all so much for following the blog so far, and I hope you continue to stay up to date on our trip and especially the competition. Follow our twitter here and like our Facebook page here for more updates. I will be posting more frequently than weekly while we are in Japan, so check on the blog more often to see all my posts.


Week Four

With only one short week to go until we fly out to Nagoya, RKRS has made huge strides towards our goal. Of course, I have an update on our arm as it has been the focus of roughly half of our time in the past week. The video below is of the first run with the arm being controlled solely by programming. The video doesn’t showcase the arm’s hand, but we should be able to run the arm with the hand soon.



As flashy as the arm is, it isn’t the only notable progress that has been made. The programming teams have made headway on the video recognition software. The software uses specific points on an image that it will recognize when shown the same image later. It is the same concept as Snapchat’s facial recognition. Unfortunately, whether or not the programming is complete in time for the competition will be completely dependent on time, as RoboCup 2017 is approaching quickly.

Creating easy controls for the robot with all its moving parts has also proved to be a bit of a challenge. Hopefully, we will have a more user-friendly method that may resemble a gaming controller, but that will also be subject to the amount of time we have to work before the competition.

On a more positive note, after having learned a bit about Japanese culture (food, manners etcs) to prepare for our trip, we received our polos and jumpsuits! With one week left before the team goes to Japan, the jumpsuits were the perfect way to excite everyone before the trip. Next week, the blog post will come one day early, on Thursday, as on Friday, we will be on our way to Nagoya! Stay up to date on our trip by checking in on this blog and by following us on twitter here and liking our Facebook page here. When it comes time for the trip, I will be updating the blog more frequently, and hopefully doing some live-tweeting of the actual competition.



Week Three

After weeks of hard work, the arm and grasper is finally functioning. The video below shows it attached to the mount, not yet on the robot itself. The next step for the arm will be finishing up the programming for the controls, so we won’t have to manually move it. Along with that we still have to set up a camera mount on the grasper to allow the eventual driver of the robot another camera angle. Hopefully soon we will be able to test the arm’s reach and dexterity.

Rising senior Jack Rickman shows off the arm’s capabilities.

Another exciting advancement has been completing the programming for the motion detection. Part of this detection test will be whether or not the robot will be able to recognize certain warning labels and identify them.


With only three weeks to go until we head out for the RoboCup, the excitement grows with every passing day. “Now that June is over, it’s really starting to set in how close we are to the competition. I’m so excited to get to Japan and show off what we’ve been working so hard on,” rising senior Sophie Herrmann said. This year is especially exciting as a few lucky rising seniors were allowed to go on the trip, as normally only members of the current year’s graduating class have participated.

Next week we will all be taking a break to enjoy the 4th of July, so there won’t be any new updates. However, you can catch up on last week’s progress here. You can also follow us on Twitter here and like our Facebook page here. When it comes time for the competition, we will be updating the blog more frequently, but also giving you real time updates on the competition on our Twitter. Check back on July 14th for another update.




Welcome to the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red KnightWelcome to the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knight RoboRescue Squad’s website. We are working to perfect a robot which will compete in the 2017 RoboCup competition in Nagoya, Japan in July, 2017. Our robot will eventually be fully autonomous with on-board computation. Our robot is designed to be semi-autonomous with the ability to perform dexterity and manipulation tasks, and to traverse advanced terrain. You can view our team and some of our links on this website.