First Robot Olympics

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The First Robot Olympics.[1] took place in Glasgow,[2] Scotland on 27–28 September 1990.[3]

The event was run by The Turing Institute at the Sports Centre at the University of Strathclyde. It featured 68 robots from 12 different countries and involved over 2,500 visitors over the two-day period.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


During the 1980s the Turing Institute had been involved in a wide range of robotics activities and had developed links with many leading robotics laboratories as a result of both student exchange and a series of collaborative research projects.[12]

The event was conceived and directed by Dr Peter Mowforth, Director of the Turing Institute, as an events-based meetup for robot enthusiasts and builders.[13][14] Although there had been single event competitions and national events for competing robots, this was the first time that such a large, varied and international Robot Competition had taken place.[15]

Many of the robots that came to the event reflected key research themes that were present at the time. For example, the two-wheeled balancing 'torch carrying' (pre-Segway) robot[16] that opened the event was associated with the Institute's work on using machine learning applied to the inverted pendulum[17]

Strathclyde University was an academic associate of and adjacent to the Turing Institute.[18] The University made their sports hall complex available for the two day event.

Events and results[edit]

EVENT Gold Silver Bronze
Obstacle Avoidance ASTERIX. University of Toronto, Canada. Anthony Green & Pavel Rozalski OSCAR. AI Dept. Edinburgh University. Scotland YAMABICO. Tsukuba University, Japan. Shoji Suzuki
Pole Balancing PENDULUM. Salford University, England. F Nagy & G A Medrano-Derda LANKY. Lancaster University, England MENACE, Turing Institute, Scotland. Bing Zhang
Phototrophic ALPHA PHOTON. Kent University, England. David Bisset ICARUS. The Shadow Group, England. David Buckley.
Manipulators BELGRADE/USC HAND. University of Belgrade, Yugoslavia BCI. St Patricks High School, Coatbridge, Scotland.
Biped Race CARDIFF BIPED.[19] Uni. Wales, Cardiff, Wales. Paul Channon, Simon Hopkins & Prof Pham ROBBIE. Paisley College of Technology, Scotland. Ken MacFarlane, Gordon Allan
Javelin YORK ARCHER. Museum of Automata, York, England WILBERFORCE. East London Polytechnic, England. Martin Smith ELEPHANTS TRUNK. Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland. J B C Davies, J Morrison
Multi-Legged Race PENELOPE. Edinburgh University, Scotland. D J Todd GENGHIS. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AI Lab, US. Olaf Beck, Prof. Rodney Brookes & Colin Angle
Wall Following YAMABICO. Tsukuba University, Japan. Shoji Suzuki SAM. Kent University, England. David Bisset, Jason Garforth, Jeremy Laycock
Talking RICHARD 1ST. Turing Institute, Scotland. Ketil Undbekken, Peter Mowforth SHADOW WALKER. The Shadow Group, London, England. David Buckley
Wall Climbing ZIG ZAG. Portsmouth Polytechnic, England. A A Collie,[20] J Billingsley, R P Smith RVP II. Soviet Academy of Sciences, Moscow, USSR. Professor Chernousko, Professor Gradetsky RVP I. Soviet Academy of Sciences, Moscow, USSR. Professor Chernousko, Professor Gradetsky[21]
Behaviour GENGHIS. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AI Lab, USA. Olaf Beck, Prof. Rodney Brookes & Colin Angle SHEEP & SHEEP DOG. Computer Science, Strathclyde Uni. Scotland SIAS. City Montessori School, Lucknow, India. Mr Ashish Panwar

National medals table[edit]

Japan's Yamabico and robot builder Shoji Suzuki from the University of Tsukuba receiving the overall Robot Olympic Champion award from Lord Balfour of Burleigh.
Country Gold (3 points) Silver (2 points) Bronze (1 Point) Total
England 4 5 0 22
Scotland 2 4 2 16
USA 1 1 0 5
Japan 1 0 1 4
USSR 0 1 1 3
Canada 1 0 0 3
Yugoslavia 1 0 0 3
Wales 1 0 0 3
India 0 0 1 1
Mexico 0 0 0 0


Robug II disqualified for trying to mount Russian competitor during race.

Four judges supervised the events to ensure 'fair play'. They were:

• Professor Frank Nage, University of Salford
• Professor Ruzena Bajcsy, University of Pennsylvania
• Eddie Grant (IEEE Representative, University of Strathclyde)[22]
• Professor Hans P. Moravec, Carnegie Mellon University[23]
Robot Event Reason for disqualification
YAMABICO, Japan Talking Could not speak English
SIAS, India Talking Completely incomprehensible
ROBUG II, England Wall Climbing Veering out of lane and demonstrating inappropriate behaviour in front of children.
MEXBOT, Mexico Multi-Legged Race Damaged during transportation. Dropped when offloaded from ship in UK.

Special awards[edit]

Caithness Glass Champions Award.

Several organisions provided special awards for different categories of competition.

IEEE Robotics & Automation Society Young Roboticist Award Brian Carr (School pupil), St Patricks High School, Coatbridge, Scotland. Awarded £25 book token.

NatWest Bank Prize for Technology Transfer Olaf Beck, Prof. Rodney Brookes & Colin Angle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT, AI Lab, USA Awarded with a Caithness Crystal bowl and £200 from NatWest Bank.

'Turing Institute Best School Prize' XYBOT Inverkeithing School, Class 7S, Scotland. Awarded with a cup and a cheque for £100.

'Olympic Champion' YAMABICO from Tsukuba University, Japan. Prize given to Shoji Suzuki. Awarded with a Caithness Glass Trophy.



As well as being organised by The Turing Institute and hosted by the University of Strathclyde, the event had seven main sponsors:


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  16. ^ "Trolleyman Lighting Olympic Flame". Science Photos. Retrieved 8 November 2015. 
  17. ^ McGee, Grimble and Mowforth. Knowledge-based Systems for Industrial Control. P. Peregrinus Limited. ISBN 978-0863412219. 
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