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6 GIFs of robots battling in a Caltech soccer competition — and 1 catching fire

A robot catches fire during the 31st annual Tridroid Cup in a soccer match between robots at Caltech.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
A robot catches fire during the 31st annual Tridroid Cup in a soccer match between robots at Caltech.

Robots — accompanied by the human competitors behind them and in front of stands filled with spectators — faced off in the Caltech auditorium as part of the 31st annual Tridroid Cup. The winners: the "Blitzkrieg Bots."

It's basically a soccer match with robots. With six teams spending 20 weeks to build three robots each, the competition was real. Each robot was handcrafted. Students talked about how they'd only slept a few hours in the past  few days, but when the competition began, that's when they got to test their creations against one another.

Some of the robots maneuvered smoothly around the arena, pushing balls through goals. Some spun in place and struggled to get over the mid-court obstacle. Others failed to spin at all, much less move anywhere. One robot caught fire.

"The motor controller has some metal parts on it and it was touching a metal screw. Didn’t realize that. Short circuited and then obviously, fire," explained Nishant Desai.

Who came out tops among the five different teams in a contest with a conspicuously Harry Potter-like logo? The Blitzkrieg Bots were followed in second place by TBD (yes, that was the team's actual name), CAD (Caltech Armored Division) in third, Flicketts in fourth and Breaking Falls in last place.

Curious how a robot soccer match works at Caltech? Here are five more GIFs showing you this event in action. 

1. At the start of each match robots will autonomously race toward a central tower with a lever that releases balls from a holding bin.

2. Shooting into this goal counts for three points:

3. Sometimes robots get stuck:

4. The robots are operated under radio control by team members stationed along the sidelines.

5. You can go through a tunnel get into another field zone:

To hear Take Two's coverage of the event, click on the audio embedded at the top of the post.