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NSW teams top the NI Autonomous Robotics Competition

University of New South Wales Team Lab 202 defeated 26 teams from Australia and New Zealand to win the 2014 National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition (NI ARC) final, held at Macquarie University in Sydney last week.

Fellow university student team, University of New South Wales Mechatronics, came a close second, with teams from the University of Wollongong and University of Sydney making it through to the competition semi-finals.

In the knock-out style grand final, themed 'Go, Sow, Grow!', fully autonomous robots had to collect seeds, navigate to a farming area littered with obstacles, deposit the collected seeds in designated planting areas, wirelessly communicate within their environment,  then navigate back to the home zone.

University teams of engineering students from multiple disciplines spent the last six months building their robots using the NI ARC development kit including an NI myRIO hardware and NI LabVIEW system design software, featuring the LabVIEW Robotics Module. 

Matej Krajnc, Managing Director for National Instruments Oceania, said the competition highlighted the importance of robotics in agriculture and helped students concentrate their skills to address the needs of the sector.

“Robotics has the potential to help transform agriculture, providing farmers with a more efficient and productive way of working. Students who competed in the NI ARC were able to demonstrate how robotics can play an important role in agricultural applications,” said Krajnc.

John Lam of the winning Lab 202 team, said three years of experience preparing for the competition year-on-year and a little friendly competition helped them finally take the title this year.

“We’ve been entering the NI ARC for the past three years, so this year we were able to build a more robust robot and very well organised LabVIEW code. We also tested in the same fields as the other  UNSW team throughout the year, which really pushed us to be as competitive as we could be.”

Lab 202 was awarded the first place prize of $3000, University of New South Wales Mechatronics was awarded $1500 in second place, $750 to the University of Wollongong in third and a prize of $500 was awarded to last year’s winners, Victoria University of Wellington, who won the Best Robot Design award by the NI ARC judges. All teams that successfully completed the competition final also get to keep the development kit which was provided by National Instruments.

Guest judges included Professor Bradley Skinner, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Autonomous Systems, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the highly respected Professor Tim Hesketh, Conjoint Professor of Systems and Control. National Instruments Technical Marketing Engineer and Technical Lead for the NI ARC, Rejwan Ali was also on the panel.

Of the 32 teams that started the competition in March, 28 successfully completed the five milestones to qualify for the final, which was held in the Lotus Theatre at Macquarie University, Sydney.

The following universities competed in the final:

  • NSW: University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney, University of Wollongong, University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, University of Newcastle
  • Queensland: Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland
  • Victoria: La Trobe University, Monash University, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Swinburne University of Technology, University of Melbourne
  • South Australia: Flinders University, University of South Australia
  • Tasmania: Australian Maritime College
  • Western Australia: Curtin University, University of Western Australia
  • New Zealand: Manukau Institute of Technology, University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University

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