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Victoria University of Wellington first NZ team to win NI’s autonomous robotics competition

Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) won first place in the National Instruments (NI) Autonomous Robotics Competition, taking the title from two-time champion, Swinburne University of Technology.

VUW’s trained robot, Ownbot 2.0, defeated 15 other teams from Australia and New Zealand to take the title as the first New Zealand champion at yesterday’s Autonomous Robotics Competition held at Swinburne University of Technology’s Hawthorn Campus.

In the grand final, themed ‘gold rush’, the robots navigated an obstacle filled course to identify and retrieve precious metal and then return it to a designated drop-off area for processing.

Participating teams built their robots over six months in the lead-up to the competition from a development kit featuring an NI Single Board RIO – board level reconfigurable control system and NI LabVIEW system design software featuring the LabVIEW Robotics Module. 

The University of New South Wales (Mechatronics) came in second place, with teams from the University of Technology Sydney and University of Auckland making it all the way through to the semi-finals in the knock-out style competition.

Matej Krajnc, Managing Director for National Instruments Oceania, said the competition helped mechatronics and engineering students develop valuable practical skills.

“Over the past six months students have worked as a team, completing the four milestones within the deadlines in order to qualify for the grand final event. To reach this stage of the competition is an outstanding feat in itself, and with the head-to-head format of the competition finals this year, the bar was set very high from the outset,” said Krajnc.

Robby Lopez, leader of the winning VUW team, said the competition was a difficult, yet rewarding experience, providing a great opportunity to get hands on experience in robotics.

“Compared to last year, the experience has been very different. We managed to organise our time much more efficiently to produce a more advanced robot. The competition gave all of us the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, which has been an invaluable asset to our field of study,” said Lopez.

University of Technology Sydney, who were declared the winners of the Best Robot Design award by the NI ARC judges.

University of Technology Sydney were declared the winners of the Best Robot Design award.

Victoria University of Wellington was awarded the first place prize of $3000, the University of New South Wales (Mechatronics) was awarded $1500 and a bonus prize of $500 was awarded to University of Technology Sydney, who were declared the winners of the Best Robot Design award by the NI ARC judges.

All teams that successfully completed the competition final get to keep the development kit, valued at over $20,000. 

National Instruments Technical Marketing Engineer, Rejwan Ali judged the competition alongside the President of the Victorian chapter of Engineers Australia, John McIntosh and Head of Robotics and Mechatronics Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology, Professor Zhihong Man.

Ben Smith, now a software engineer with Thales, who was part of last year’s winning Swinburne University of Technology team in 2011 and 2012, also discussed his experiences with the competition and how it helped him prepare for the industry in a presentation given at the final.

Of the 22 teams that started the competition in March, 16 were able to complete four milestones to qualify for the final. Having won the event in 2012, the competition final was held in the Main Lecture Theatre, ATC Building, at the Hawthorn Campus of Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.

Universities that competed in the final:

  • NSW: University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney, University of Wollongong, University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney;
  • Queensland: Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology;
  • Victoria: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Swinburne University of Technology,
  • South Australia: Flinders University;
  • New Zealand: Manukau Institute of Technology, University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington

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