Getting into RoboCup - Beyond LEGO Robotics

Hi guys,

I am Kenneth, RCJ Soccer participant between 2008 and 2014 (Cat A Lightweight Indiv and Superteam 2nd at Istanbul 2011), RCJ Soccer, Rescue Line, On-stage, and CoSpace mentor between 2015 and present (Soccer Open Indiv 3rd and Outstanding Design Award, Rescue Line Outstanding Engineering Process Award at Bordeaux 2023 etc.), and Soccer League Chair for Singapore (2018 to present) and RoboCup Asia Pacific (2021 to present).

RoboCup has been, and continues to be, a competition that pushes the boundaries of the technology that is available to us, along with the abilities of our participants. With the RoboCup platform, I have, in my various roles, witnessed and harnessed the transformational ability of such an experience, altering the academic and professional trajectory of kids whose lives have been touched.

As the level of the top teams continues to climb, it is becoming increasingly difficult for new entrants to catch up. The biggest stumbling block that we have identified would be the transition from platforms such as LEGO MINDSTORMS and VEX to the world of non-kit robotics that is required to reach the performance levels seen among the winners of our regional and international RoboCup events.

The final nail in the coffin came when The LEGO Group announced the discontinuation of the MINDSTORMS theme last year. SPIKE PRIME, while holding some advantages over the EV3 platform, does little to address the complexity of RoboCup with even fewer IO ports.

Early last year, I began development of a replacement for the LEGO MINDSTORMS system with my student (who has also grown up through RoboCup, winning awards in RCJ Soccer, Rescue, and CoSpace at the regional and international level), resulting in EVN.

EVN is a robot controller analogous to the EV3 intelligent brick. It is built around an RP2040 MCU and integrates 4 4A peak DC Motor channels (with encoders), 4 Servo Channels, 2 UART channels, and 16 I2C channels. Unlike the EV3, it runs off 2 18650 cells in its default configuration, charging over a USB C port which is also used for upload and debugging over Serial. It is built to be truly LEGO Technic compatible, adhering to LEGO units and providing 64 Technic compatible holes on 5 sides of the controller, all while being 50% smaller than the EV3 volumetrically.

Configuration ideas:

  • RCJ Soccer: 4 motors and 1/2 external solenoid driver(s) over servo pin or 3 motors and 1 solenoid, 1/2 dribbler(s) over servo pin(s), 1 camera over UART, 1 Bluetooth module over UART, 4 distance sensors over I2C (ultrasonic for Lightweight, IR based for Open), IMU, light gate and 10 line sensors over I2C.
  • RCJ Rescue Line: 2 or 4 drive motors, up to 2 DC Motors and 4 servos for manipulation, 1 camera over UART, 1 Bluetooth Module over UART, 8 colour sensors over I2C, 8 distance sensors over I2C.

The feedback we have gotten from the people we have shown EVN to has been overwhelmingly positive. This includes competition organisers, mentors, and teams. Many have agreed that a tool like this will lower the barriers to non-kit robotics as it allows users to take small steps to wean them off the LEGO platform while making incremental performance gains.

We are excited to share EVN with the RoboCup community and will be selling at cost over this Kickstarter campaign as our way of giving back to the community that has given so much to us. We hope that this will be a tool useful to you, and we hope to welcome more teams to the RoboCup community while seeing the level of competition grow as it has.

Do check it out at: EVN - The Natural Evolution of the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® System by EVN — Kickstarter

Best Regards,