UNSW team heading to UAE for robotics competition

Engineering students from The University of NSW (UNSW) will compete for a share in over $7 million in sponsorship and prize money at the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Competition (MBZIRC) in Abu Dhabi later this month.

The event will focus on the role of robotics and artificial intelligence in smart city solutions, and include construction and fire-fighting challenges.

The UNSW team was the only all-Australian team to qualify for the competition, where 31 teams will compete from universities from 18 countries.

Dylan Sanusi-Goh, a third-year mechatronics engineering student and operations manager for the UNSW Competitive Robotics team attending MBZIRC, said that the team would have to overcome the challenge of managing the complexity of tasks involved to get multiple autonomous vehicles to interact to achieve a goal.

We have to program our vehicles to see their environment, understand it and take actions as a result – with no human intervention,” Sanusi-Goh said.

The students are taking three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, aka drones) and one unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to compete in two of the competition’s four challenges. They must code the robots to interpret colour, patterns and variable temperatures, then act accordingly.

The first challenge will require the UAVs and UGVs to locate, select, transport and assemble different types of bricks to build predefined structures in an outdoor environment, to simulate autonomous building construction. The second requires the robots to work together to autonomously assess and extinguish a series of simulated fires in an urban high-rise firefighting scenario.

Senior lecturer in mechatronics Dr Mark Whitty said the competition provides tremendous exposure to the latest robotics research for UNSW students.

“To compete at MBZIRC, students have to produce highly sophisticated software programming,” Whitty said.

“The competition will focus on multiple air and ground vehicles programmed to work together in given scenarios. Participation in the event gives the students excellent hands-on, practical experience in a highly competitive environment.”