We­stro dom­i­nates ro­bot de­sign

Hamilton Press - - OUT & ABOUT - DEB­O­RAH CUMING

A team of Waikato Univer­sity engi­neer­ing stu­dents have taken out the Best Ro­bot De­sign cat­e­gory for an in­ter­na­tional robotics com­pe­ti­tion in Sydney.

The team, WE­STRO, com­peted against 25 other uni­ver­si­ties from Aus­tralia and Sin­ga­pore, in the sev­enth an­nual Na­tional In­stru­ments Au­ton­o­mous Robotics Com­pe­ti­tion on Septem­ber 6.

It is the third year Waikato Univer­sity has en­tered the com­pe­ti­tion, and WE­STRO soft­ware stu­dent Nikhil Sethi said it was a great op­por­tu­nity.

‘‘We got to learn a lot more in the ex­po­sure, and to travel to Aus­tralia and meet such great peo­ple, that was pretty amaz­ing in terms of eval­u­at­ing other ro­bots and meet­ing other peo­ple.’’

Sethi, 21, said the com­pe­ti­tion gave him an op­por­tu­nity to see a lit­tle of where robotics is headed.

‘‘I have high dreams. I want to work with Ap­ple, Google, Tesla. I don’t know if I will be spe­cial­is­ing in robotics or Mecha­tron­ics, but this is a way to pick up as much ex­pe­ri­ence as I can and learn about new things hap­pen­ing.’’

This year’s theme was Trans­port In­no­va­tion, with each of the teams re­quired to nav­i­gate a ‘‘smart city’’, earn­ing points by quickly and ef­fi­ciently chang­ing road rules, avoid­ing ob­sta­cles, pick­ing up ‘‘pas­sen­gers’’ and re­turn­ing home safely.

It was a chal­leng­ing course, and be­cause of is­sues with their sonar sen­sors and a blown fuse it meant they couldn’t fin­ish the track.

So it was the de­sign it­self that scored them the win by pop­u­lar vote, though not ev­ery­thing went to plan.

Two days be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion other team mate, Aflah Bahri, was up late fix­ing last­minute is­sues with the ro­bot’s cir­cuits.

‘‘Some things went wrong,’’ engi­neer­ing team mate Michael Red­stall said.

‘‘But we got to talk to a bunch of stu­dents from other uni­ver­si­ties about how they had en­coun­tered the same prob­lems as us. That was cool, just meet­ing other stu­dents.’’’

Waikato Univer­sity De­part­ment of Engi­neer­ing fa­cil­ity ad­vi­sor ChiKit Au said the com­pe­ti­tion is de­signed to en­cour­age de­vel­op­ment and in­no­va­tion in the field of robotics.

‘‘It is very chal­leng­ing for them…we will do it again next year be­cause it is a good way for the stu­dents to learn.’’

Waikato Univer­sity’s Mikhail Sethi and Michael Red­stall with their win­ning ro­bot de­sign.

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