A Most Tsukuba-like Racing Event- on November 14th, 15th (trials) and 16th (the day of the actual race !) – The Tsukuba Challenge 2014
By Avi Landau
They`ve been getting ready for the big race for weeks, months, maybe even years. Training, training, and then more training- working to improve speed stamina and coordination: knowing that every SECOND will count in the pursuit of victory.
And it all comes down to this coming Sunday November 16th, at an event for which they will be converging on Tsukuba from all over Japan. For victory. For the prize. For the glory!
No. I am not talking about the famous and very popular Tsukuba Marathon, which will be held later this month ( on the 23rd ), and in which thousands will run. I`m referring to the 8th annual Tsukuba Challenge, also known as the Real World Robot Challenge- in which about 50 robots- on-wheels of various design will try to negotiate a course around Tsukuba`s Central Park. This year the course will run a gruelling 1.43 kilometers, from the O-shimizu Koen Park (between Capio Hall and Nova Hall), over the pedestrian bridge which spans the Tsuchiura-Gakuensen Road to the Tsukuba Center Complex where the robots will have to navigate around the central “pit” and then head back to the park of origin.There will be various designated stopping points along the way.
If you think this sounds difficult, IT IS. In fact, the last time I watched the event ( a few years ago) only 5 out of 72 teams could complete the course, which was much shorter than what they will have to navigate this year.
If you`ve been around Tsukuba Center over the past few months, more specifically on the pedestrian road between Nova Hall and the Expo Center, you have almost surely seen the curious sight of some of the teams practicing the course with their robots. It is a strange sight indeed to see groups of two or three green-capped, name-tag wearing OTAKU (computer nerd) types clustered around the odd looking, diminutive, wheeled vehicles ( often made using wheel chairs, of all things!), making their way along the path at what could only be called a SNAILS PACE.
Starting Friday morning November 18, there will be a trial run which will be held over a 240 meter course. Those who successfully complete it, will be able to take part in the FINALS on the following day.
Since Tsukuba is Japan`s SCIENCE CITY, and is now perhaps the capital of cutting edge robot technology, this event seems to me just perfect. Much more appropriate for the city than the Tsukuba Matsuri ( in which the main theme is a group of floats which are taken from a very famous festival in Aomori prefecture-after they have finished using them there), or even the Tsukuba Marathon, since there are many marathons held all over Japan ( a dime a dozen!).
So come on out this weekend (especially Sunday) for a TRULY TSUKUBAN event. Join the nerds cheering the robots on ! At the rate they go it will take quite a long time (at least 90 minutes !). They will need plenty of encouragement to make it to the finish line!
See you there!