Summer robot contests

Stellar-Robot-Tank.jpg

The Unmanned Ground Vehicle used by the winners of the UK's Grand Challenge, Team Stellar

Robot contests are a great and increasingly popular way to boosting student education, promoting robotics to the general public and leveraging investment into robotics technology.

The past weeks have seen four such contests unroll. First, the Grand Challenge, held by the UK's Ministry of Defence. In many ways similar to the US DARPA Challenges, it focused on the best way to detect military threats in an urban environment. However, entries were not restricted to autonomous cars and most teams used combinations of flying and ground based robots. The competition was won by the Stellar Team, which united partners from small-to-medium enterprises, academia and major industrial partners.

The Asia-Pacific Robot Contest Robocon (official non-English site here), the largest Asian Oceanian College robot competition, took place last week at the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) in India. Students competed on a task inspired from the Hindu festival Krishna Janmashtami, which involves people building human towers to break clay pots called "Dahi-Handi" suspended high above the ground. Similarily, robot teams had to collaborate to form a pyramid out of robots to reach into a Dahi-Handi and collect small cubes. If you don't get the picture this video may help.

Third, CAD software manufacturer Solidworks announced the winners of it's Grant Imahara VEXplorer Robot Challenge. ChemBot (see this video) is a remotely controlled robotic arm mounted on a mobile base with a wireless video camera. It allows to "prevent accidents from potentially dangerous experiments" by having the robot conduct them in your stead. Second place went to a walking quadruped dinosaur robot (video).

Finally, children in Japan have just been putting their robot skills to the test in this week's qualifying for the World Robot Olympiad in Tokyo. More than 80 teams constructed robots to find their way around an obstacle course and complete tasks. The best 24 teams will participate in the Olympiad to be held in Yokohama, Japan in November.

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