BYU students design robotic Foosball table

Posted at 10:08 PM, Apr 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-01 00:08:03-04

PROVO, Utah – Students at Brigham Young University recently completed a unique project involving robotics and the classic game of Foosball.

What began as a classroom lesson later turned into a competitive, semester-long project for seven BYU students.

“We found a couple videos on YouTube, and we thought we could do better,” said D.J. Lee, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at BYU.

Lee helped several students come up with the project. He said most designs that you see online for similar tables are bulky and heavy-duty. The design they came up with simply runs off of an overhead camera.

“The camera sends pictures to the computer, 60 frames per second,” Lee said. “And the computer, we write code to process those images, and we locate a ball and the players, and then we use that information to program, to control the motor.”

Joseph Quist has been working on the table's design for more than a year. He said one of the main challenges was troubleshooting the mechanical workings of the two motors.

One motor controls the kicking while the other controls lateral movement. The students implemented a threaded rod to get the job done.

“This is an old version of the rod, but the design is basically the same, where this screw connects to the people and goes through the rod through that slot, and then as you spin this motor, it’ll move back and forth,” he said.

The next step was wiring it all up.

“So this cable actually goes to all the motors, where it can get a location from the encoders attached to the motors, and then it sends it through these drivers back to the computer, and then the computer will respond to these drivers and tell them whether to move or not,” Quist said.

Lee said the project wasn't just all fun and games.

“Students do this project, they learn a lot of skills,” he said. “They can go out and build autonomous vehicles, robots, you know, all kinds of different things that have practical use.”

Lee said nothing made him more proud than when one of his students battled his own program, and lost.

“He tried really hard, but he lost to his own computer—I mean his own program—10 to 7,” Lee said. “I’m happy. I’m happy he lost.”