Nick Collins

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

A series of UT robots faced off against robots from around the world in a tournament evaluating their vision, movement and soccer skills. Called UT Austin Villa, the robots and their creators scored a victory in two major divisions at RoboCup 2012, a worldwide artificial intelligence competition.

UT Austin Villa, a UT robotics team, participated in the RoboCup 2012 tournament last week in Mexico City. The tournament, held June 18-24, forces participants to work in teams and use strategic reasoning to promote advancement in robotics and artificial intelligence research, according to its website. Led by associate computer science professor Peter Stone, UT Austin Villa is comprised of the two teams, one which competes in the 3-D Simulation League and the other in the RoboCupSoccer Standard Platform League.

Teams participating in the Standard Platform League use identical robots to direct their focus on the code that controls the robot. The UT team developed code to help the robots move autonomously by enabling robots to have certain human characteristics, such as sense of vision, localization, locomotion and coordination.

Jake Menashe, an SPL member who participated in the tournament, said the work he and his team put into RoboCup this past spring and last minute tweaks at the competition led to the team’s victory. The SPL team took on the University of Bremen in Germany in the championship game and came out on top with a final score of 4-2.

“At the final game in particular, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard all kinds of stories about our opponent, B-Human, [the University of Bremen team], never losing a game and easily winning matches 10-0,” Menashe said. “Each score was exhilarating and seeing all of our work come together in the final was really satisfying.”

The 3-D Simulation League consists of teams coding and using virtual robots projected onto the RoboCup Soccer Server System, a 3-D virtual soccer stadium. Robot teams competing in the virtual soccer tournament operate by the same rules as human soccer players and win by scoring the most goals. Team members included computer science graduate student Patrick MacAlpine, and computer science seniors Adrian Lopez-Mobilia and Nick Collins.

Stone said the students have been using humanoid Aldebaran Nao robots, humanoid robots sometimes used in education and research. He said some of the team members had their first experience with the robots in a computer science class last fall, while the other students did not start working with the robots until the spring semester. Stone said UT Austin Villa was the strongest at recognizing where the opposing robots were in the soccer tournament, which helped them win.

“It has been an ongoing research effort,” Stone said. “The code used in the robots is one that has evolved over time.”

Tekin Mericli, a UT alumnus and former member of the UT Austin Villa, said the success of the team this year most likely came from building on top of existing infrastructure to further improve the code. He said when he was an active member of the team, the members used robotic dogs and held test games against the previous year’s code on a regular basis to make sure they were in good shape for the competition.

“Even though we were programming the Aibo robots back then and not the Nao robots, which are the current standard platform of the league, I’m sure the team kept working along the same principles since then and finally won the first place,” Mericli said.

Computer science senior Peter Farago said he is impressed by the success of both leagues this year. He said these victories show the ambitions people have for artificial intelligence and reveals how far they have come in the field.

“If you can create a robot soccer team that can play against a human soccer team, this might lead to building a human soldier in the distant future,” Farago said. “It is pretty amazing what these people are doing.”

Clarification on July 3 - Jacob Menashe said he felt the work he and his team put in last minute led the team to victory. An earlier version of this story only mentioned the work Menashe put in.

Aaron Rodgers has turned the Green Bay Packers into Super Bowl champions once again.

ARLINGTON — Aaron Rodgers has turned the Green Bay Packers into Super Bowl champions once again.

Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and Nick Collins returned an interception for another score, leading the Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

This was Green Bay’s fourth Super Bowl title. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Vince Lombardi coaching Bart Starr, and captured another with Brett Favre in January 1997.

The Steelers trailed 21-3 before halftime. Ben Roethlisberger got them within 28-25 midway through the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass and a nifty 2-point conversion. The Packers answered with a field goal, giving Roethlisberger one last chance.

Needing to go 87 yards in 1:59 with one timeout left, Roethlisberger couldn’t make it across midfield.

As the Packers ran out the clock, fans chanted, “Go Pack Go!” Rodgers — who was named the game’s MVP — wound up with the ball, bouncing up and down. He hugged Clay Matthews Jr. near midfield as confetti shot out of cannons and silver streamers dropped.

“This is a great day to be great, baby,” said wide receiver Greg Jennings.

“We’ve been a team that’s overcome adversity all year,” he added. “Our head captain goes down, emotional in the locker room. Our No. 1 receiver goes down, more emotions are going, flying in the locker room. But we find a way to bottle it up and exert it all out here on the field.”

This was only the second time Pittsburgh lost a Super Bowl. The Steelers still have the most wins with six and are tied for the most appearances with eight.

The crowd at Cowboys Stadium was 91,060 paying attendees, or 103,219 counting “credentialed attendees.” It fell short of the record.

Green Bay led 21-17 after three quarters, but the Packers were without cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields and receiver Donald Driver.

The Steelers had the momentum, the experience and the crowd — tens of thousands of fans twirling “Terrible Towels” and making things tough for Rodgers to bark out signals at times.

But on the first play of the fourth quarter, with Pittsburgh possibly driving for a go-ahead touchdown, Rashard Mendenhall fumbled on a hit by Clay Matthews Jr. The Packers took over at their own 45.

Jennings caught his second TD pass of the game to give the Packers a 28-17 lead with 11:57 to play — their third touchdown following a takeaway.

The Packers’ final points came on a 23-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 2:07 left.

Christina Aguilera got the game off to a rocky start by flubbing a line in the national anthem. The Steelers didn’t do much better at the outset.

Green Bay jumped ahead 14-0 with touchdowns on consecutive plays: a 29-yard touchdown catch by Jordy Nelson, then Collins’ interception, which featured a weaving return, a dive into the end zone and hip-swiveling dance toward the Pittsburgh sideline by B.J. Raji, the Packers’ jumbo-sized nose tackle.

Rodgers stretched the lead to 21-3 by drilling a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jennings. The ball whistled past safety Ryan Clark, with Jennings making a tough catch look easy just before getting popped by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. That drive also was set up by an interception, a pickoff at midfield by Jarrett Bush.

Roethlisberger’s miserable first half turned a little better at the end.

Taking over deep in his own territory after Jennings’ touchdown, he threw a 37-yard completion to Antwaan Randle El. That started a seven-play, 77-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown catch to former Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward.

Also on that drive, Woodson hurt his collarbone diving for a pass. He spent the second half in street clothes, with his left arm in a sling, appearing quite uncomfortable. Driver was out with an ankle injury, and Shields hurt a shoulder.

With two defensive backs out at the half, everyone expected the Steelers to come out throwing in the third quarter. Nope. They gained all 50 yards on their opening drive on the ground, with Mendenhall bowling in from the 8 for the touchdown. He jumped up and flung the ball into the stands with a two-handed basketball chest pass.

The first Super Bowl held at $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium came following a week of ice and snow that caused all sorts of problems. Hopes for an uneventful gameday were ruined when several sections of temporary seats — holding about 1,250 people — were deemed unsafe.

Celebs were everywhere: from former President George W. Bush to baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez, who was seen having popcorn shoveled into his mouth by actress Cameron Diaz. Hollywood stars John Travolta, Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart, Mark Harmon, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas were in attendance, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson was seated near new Cowboys coach Jason Garrett; on Garrett’s other side was Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Football stars were sprinkled around, too. The newest Hall of Fame class, chosen Saturday, took part in the pregame coin toss, with Deion Sanders handling the flip.