100 youth build 16 different autonomous robots for search and rescue missions
Winning team, comprising UPM and Taylor’s students, build bot resembling WALL-E
THE recent Makeweekend Robotics bootcamp gathered 100 youth to build technology that might help in future large-scale search operations.
Allowed to register as a team or as an individual, the weekend saw all of them form into teams to build 16 different autonomous robots for search and rescue missions, organiser Makeweekend said in a statement. Participants were mostly engineering students (20%) and young professionals in relevant fields with all possesing basic programming knowledge.
“This is the kind of technology that will be used to for search missions in the future,” said its cofounder Kal Joffres.
“Most of the search operation consists of people looking out the window of a plane, searching a very large and remote area. Unmanned and autonomous robots will change the way that happens, allowing us to search larger areas much faster,” he added.
Makeweekend said that thanks to its process of rapid product development, the teams managed to build the robots over just two days.
Participants received a rapid course in developing robots and used 3D printers to help build parts for their robots. Each robot had an on board computer that the teams programmed to use different approaches to search and rescue.
Makeweekend is a programme that brings people together to solve big challenges over two days. The challenges range from improving education to improving disaster relief.
“Typically, challenges like this are completed over months. We are pushing people to see how much they can accomplish building something from scratch in just two days,” said Joffres.
The winning team for the search and rescue challenge, made of students from Universiti Putra Malaysia and Taylor’s College, built a robot resembling WALL-E, the character from the 2008 Pixar movie. It has a rotating head equipped with sensors to detect obstacles around it.
Five engineering students in their final year from Inti College, inspired by the ‘black box’ concept, decided to build a low-cost black box for cars that could detect accidents as well as damage to the car and automatically alert family members with location information.
Participants began the event with a two hour programming workshop before teams received kits that included the basic component to make their autonomous robot, including a programmable Raspberry Pi computer or ‘brain’ for their robots, motors, batteries and more. The robots were required to autonomously complete a course to find a distress beacon within a certain time.
The top two teams received 3pi robots (an advanced technology in building robots) as prizes and the top five teams will receive additional support in terms of 3D printing services and electronic parts. The projects will be showcased at the launch of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) from April 25-27.
“I'm amazed that I'm here. The first time I heard about Raspberry Pi [computer] was on BBC and I couldn't believe that such a thing existed,” said Vinothini Rasalingam from Universiti Tenaga Nasional.
“Now I'm here actually working on it. It's my first robot,” she added.
The event was hosted by Wakalab, the youth and community arm of Media Prima Digital. Key partners include MaGIC, Makerzone, and Makespace, which supported the event and provided 3D printing services.
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