SMART News - NIARC1A team of students and researchers based in a lab within the SMART Infrastructure Facility has placed second in a national robotics competition.

The National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition (ARC) tested 24 teams from Universities around Australia and New Zealand through four milestone stages and a live national final.

Mechanical Materials and Mechatronics Research Fellow Nathan Larkin said the robots were required to navigate around a checkerboard course picking up and moving coloured objects.

Mr Larkin said the team, consisting of third and fourth year Mechatronics students, produced mostly new work while designing and building the robot, which was programmed and fabricated at various labs inside the SMART Infrastructure Facility.

“A lot of it was quite new to them. We [academic supervisors] just gave them some direction,” he said.

In the final, held at Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, the University of Wollongong team was edged out by the home team. It was Swinburne’s second year in the competition while UOW was competing for the very first time.

The competition theme was ‘Search and Rescue’, but Mr Larkin said the technology has applications in a variety of fields.

“Robot motion and control can be put into practice in any sort of industry,” he said, citing examples of services-type environments like delivering food to hospital patients and autonomous vacuum cleaners. This technology can also be effectively developed for use in building maintenance devices and can be extended to other infrastructure maintenance/condition monitoring such as the mapping of road or rail infrastructure to detect possible defects

“The field is called Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping,” he said.

In this field, robots are designed to build up a map of an unknown environment or to update maps of known environments while keeping track of their actual location.

Throughout the competition, teams were required to upload videos of their progress to YouTube to demonstrate that they had qualified for the final competition.

Each team was allowed to keep the development kit supplied by National Instruments. Additionally, the UOW team also won $1500 in prize money.

The University of Wollongong team hopes to build on their success in 2012 to win the competition next year.