AAST FRC 1287 Aluminum Assault Straight Ballin
Watching the Trailblazers playing basketball, I got to wondering if any one had bothered to build a robot to shoot basketballs. Shooting a ball is straight forward engineering problem. Given the distance to the basket, it should be a simple matter to calculate the velocity and the angle of elevation that should be given the ball. If you do that correctly, the ball should go in. The problem is simple enough that maybe no one thought it worth actually building a machine to try it. Theory is one thing, practice is another. You might think it is a simple problem, but until you demonstrate your machine, you won't know.
From the video above you can see that other people also wanted to know. This one has several embellishments. It can 'see' the basketballs and the net, or at least the target painted on the backboard, it can navigate the court and it can pick up loose balls. I don't like its throwing technique, but seems to be popular with the engineering crowd. This was four years ago and things have changed a bit.
Standford is running a small scale competition among undergraduates using ping pong balls instead of real basketballs, and Arizona State is working on a robot with arms to throw the ball. They aren't use a real ball or court, but they aren't using ping pong balls either.