RFC Cambridge



We are group of mechanical and electrical engineers and computer scientists based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We are collaborating to build a team of robots for the small-size league of the Robocup competition. We are a joint Harvard-MIT endeavor with members ranging from undergraduate freshmen to graduate students. The Harvard component of our club stems from the Harvard College Engineering Society, which was founded in 2004 as a club to join together students of all engineering disciplines and provide them with opportunities to explore their interests. in 2005, it merged with the MIT Competitive Robotics Club, which competed in the Battlebots competition. We are building robots for the Robocup small-size league, a competition of soccer-playing robots no more than 15 cm in diameter and 18 cm tall. During the competition, the robots are completely autonomous, getting outside inputs only from overhead cameras and an external referee box. Our mechanical engineers design and build our robots, our electrical engineers design our circuit boards, our computer scientists build the software platforms. Every year we continue to improve on the system we have in place. We are based at MIT N51 and Harvard’s Pierce Hall (room B9, in the basement). we have also acquired the third floor lounge in Harvard’s Maxwell-Dworkin hall. (this is where our field lives!) If you are interested, feel free to stop by!

Software Team

Artificial Intelligence

We run algorithms to dynamically map the field looking for potential openings in the opponent's defense. Our high level behaviors that read from this map are based on Finite State Machines.

Motion Planning

Once we know where we want to go, we use a Smooth RRT path planning algorithm to avoid obstacles, and PID based control loops to move as quickly as possible while still remaining stable.


Our code is based on a distributed messaging based architecture, to keep components as loosely coupled as possible and allow for our codebase to be run across different processes or even different physical machines.
mapping wall

Mechanical Team

We work with the CS and EE teams to develop mechanical capabilities we want our robots to have, and then design features to allow those capabilities. Design primarily happens in Solidworks and we subsequently build by hand almost every piece in the machine shops at Harvard and MIT. Previous mechanical experience is useful but not required, as we offer machine-shop training and offer projects for team members at any experience level. wheel roller

Electronics Team

The electronics team is responsible for communicating commands from our central computer to each robot and powering our motors to actually do what we want. We design our own circuit boards from scratch to efficiently and smoothly drive our powerful three-phase motors as well as quickly charge our kicker circuit to 250 volts. diagram boards

Past Competitions

In April 2006, we competed in the US open against Carnegie Mellon and Laval. As this was our first competition, we learned very much — everything from the importance of geometric calibration to correct for camera distortion to the fact that our robots will not move if we try to avoid obstacles by too large of a radius. (the ME and EE people learned a lot as well, but a CS person is writing this…) We came in second place and now have a large trophy that lives in a glass case by Maxwell-Dworkin cafe. In June 2006, we competed in the Robocup world cup in Bremen, Germany. It was very exciting for us to go, especially as we had not even been sure if we could qualify this first year. The world cup was not only for the small-size league, but also for the mid-size, aibo, humanoid, rescue, and robocup junior leagues, so there was always something fun to watch in our down time, when we had any. We played in a bracket against Field Ranger (Singapore), Plasma-Z (Thailand), KIKS (Japan), and B-Smart (Germany). Though we did not win any of our games, it was really great to watch and play against so many good teams. This competition was the best learning experience we’d had all year, and we got many good ideas for how to improve our systems for next year! In May 2009, we hosted the US Open tournament and played against Georgia tech and Carnigie Mellon. the organization of the tournament and a lot of the development effort that year were due to the CS199r class at Harvard (special thanks to Prof. Nagpal), which got a lot of people motivated and involved in the team. During the competition, both teams were ahead of us, but they helped us a lot in identifying issues with our system and describing some design decisions they had made while being close to our state. In June 2009, we participated in the world cup in Graz, Austria. We were significantly behind, but constantly improved with every game. During five competition days, the CS subteam had total commits of over 5,000 lines of code! We ended up losing again, but we could pinpoint all current issues and knew how to handle most of them. In June 2010, we played in the world cup in Singapore. Earlier that year, the ME and E subteams came up with a slew of improvements of our design and our robots were more reliable, faster and stronger than ever. Our newly formed controls subteam made sure that we have robust controllers that closely matched the current hardware. On the world cup, we could only play with 4 out of 5 robots and non-surprisingly lost. However, compared to previous years, we were miles ahead – all loses were close (not the previous onslaughts) and we managed to make very decent attacks during the games. We set up a few friendly games immediately after the competition and there we had our first tie (with Georgia tech) and our first victory! (with UC Thunderbots). After that, we are more motivated than ever to keep improving!

Join the Team

We always welcome new members who love robots and are willing to work hard to make our robots good! Please email any of us below to learn more about joining.


Kenny Derek:  kderek@mit.edu

Havard EE & ME

John Alex Keszler: keszler@college.harvard.edu

Harvard CS

Lev Grossman: lgrossman@college.harvard.edu