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The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Malaysia

Engineering students complete robotics challenge in less time

Published: 13 October 2016
USMC engineering students
Team spirit helped this group of students overcome the obstacles

A team of Year 2 engineering students from the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus became one of the finalists during the UTAR Intercampus Robotics Competition last 23 July beating out 11 teams from other universities.

The team composed of Electrical and Electronic Engineering students: Ravivarma Vikneswaren and Hans Gunno; and Mechanical Engineering students: Tan Jian An, Low Shuenn Yuh, Shermit Singh, and Kapilanjan Elongovan Malathi.

Mechanical engineering lecturer Dr Joe Lifton, said it was the powerful team dynamic that propelled their robots to complete the tasks in less time. ‘’The team were among the four groups that managed to finish tasks. They placed highly and earned points in most categories.’’

The competition is based on a narrative about a warrior and his horse going through a maze to save a princess who has been imprisoned in a castle. For this challenge, the team built two robots that represent the warrior and horse, respectively. For the four subtasks, the horse needs to go through land to kill monsters, collect coins, move an unknown object through a maze whereas for the main task, the warrior needs to reach the castle by water and move the key to shore to unlock the castle doors. Click here to watch the video. 

Setting aside differences for a common goal

The success came through months of tireless effort and collaboration from the team of students as well as lecturers with an unrelenting commitment to excellence. According to Kapilanjan, conceptualisation started in February. ‘’We went through a couple of designs as we wanted to achieve the right balance between size (mostly weight), motor power and battery power. We were all brimming with great ideas however we also willingly challenged those ideas to get the best solution.’’

Like any other robot, there was cost involved with forming the two robots. For this competition, the students decided to repurpose parts of existing robots to keep cost down.

‘’We took an old robot from a prior competition and used some of its parts. The initial goal was to create an autonomous robot that could complete each challenge with ease. We ended up creating robots made of mostly aluminium, plastic and wood,’’ said Jian An.

‘With the help of our advisors, we tried to make it as simple as possible,’’ explained Shuenn Yuh. ‘’There was one instance that we noticed that the sheets of aluminium were too soft to move the objects so we hammered the sheets to make them stronger and harder.’’ Click here to watch the video. 

Ravi, meanwhile, had his own set of challenges to contend with. ‘’Completing all the electronics – motor control, sensor reading, power management, and more – amidst exam season was stressful. Whilst the mechanical engineering members had almost finalised the design, I solely had to figure a way to match their mechanical design.’’

‘’Competitions such as this enables our students the opportunity to work and create together to solve a problem,’’ said Dr Lifton.

‘’It was a blast,’’ said Kapilanjan. ‘’Most robots in the competition utilised heavy materials which turned out to be a limitation. Despite the limited resources, my team and I were very confident.’’ In the end, the team agree that in order to build something, it should be based on available resources, and use a design, the simplest one, to get the job done.

Similarly, Ravi said the experience has inspired him to think about moving toward to software engineering or computer science, field of studies that are both related to robotics.

‘’I’m really inspired by what we have accomplished together with my colleagues. As with any journey, it is who you travel with that is more important than your destination,’’ reflects Ravi.



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