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Being a Robot Has its Advantages

The year is 2050, the stadium is packed, the crowd on their feet…it shoots, it scores…GOOOOOOAAAL! At this moment, dreams have been realized in engineering labs all around the globe. For the first time ever, a robotic football team has beaten their World Cup winning human counterpart.

To the average person this may sound like science fiction, but to Lotte de Koning and her fellow students, scientists and engineers it is a dream they are actively pursuing to make a reality. As the Team Leader for Tech United, the TU/e’s World Championship Robocup Middle Size team, Lotte is helping to coordinate an effort to reach this goal. Having recently returned to the Netherlands after an internship at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, Lotte is more energized than ever with new knowledge and experiences to help advance her team even closer to their 2050 target.

Raised in Den Bosch, Lotte came naturally to the Robocup team with a mixture of talents and interests that align perfectly with their challenge. “The combination of robot soccer and the technology behind it really got me interested,” she says. Playing hockey from a young age, Lotte learned to perform well athletically under pressure in a competitive environment. She also honed her skills for strategy and maneuvering on and off the field. These abilities coupled with a natural interest in how things work, make her the perfect candidate to lead a team of young engineers into the future of robotic athletics.

As a young woman in a predominantly male field, Lotte sees no barriers to success. She appreciates the importance of a female perspective and feels that women in the technology industry help to create a well-rounded organization. Over the past few years, she is encouraged to see greater numbers of female students seeking degrees in engineering and other technical fields. She owes this shift in a large part to the TU/e’s recent changes to their programs of study within the engineering department as well as their emphasis on attracting women to scientific and technical programs. Used to being in the gender minority, Lotte has learned how to stand up for her opinions and worked hard to prove herself.

Lotte’s interest in engineering was sparked at a young age when she admired her father’s technical drawings and architectural models. Accompanying him to the work site, she was in awe of the structures being built around her. Though she entered the TU/e with an initial interest to pursue architecture, Lotte soon changed gears and decided instead to study mechanical engineering. During her undergraduate study, she worked on a project pioneering robotic assistance for delicate eye surgeries, which has since been used on a human patient for the first time at Oxford.

Since returning from her internship in the US where she was able to share ideas and learn alongside other students of robotics, Lotte is now focused on reengaging with her Tech United team and completing her master’s degree. As the Robocup platform is open source, the teams are able to take full advantage of the expertise around them and trade their knowledge and experiences with groups around the world. This includes involvement not only from academic sources, but also local industry. Tech United has benefitted greatly from the Brainport region’s cornucopia of wisdom through interactions with companies such as Philips, ASML, and Shell. Lotte’s role as team leader is to help facilitate the best way to organize this information and plan the overall strategy for her team. “I like to think of strategies,” she says, “and how to translate the mind into little pieces.” The biggest challenge she sees right now is in adapting and advancing the software behind their robotic players. She aims not to necessarily mirror human characteristics but also do things that only robots can do. “We have to use the advantages of being a robot,” says Lotte. With safety in mind, a long-term vision of the innovation of these robots is for future use in aiding humans in various ways. “Our goal is to develop robots to service humans, to make our lives better,” she says.

With a clear focus and a solid foundation of academic and technical skills, Lotte de Koning looks forward to seeing what the future holds. “I’m really curious to see what the world will look like in 2050,” she says. Whether or not we see robots claiming victory against future football champions, we must all wait and see, but surely Lotte’s own outlook is full of promise.

To learn more about Lotte’s research or Tech United, please visit:

BBC webpage
Techunited website