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Block Pirates shine at iNexus Robotics Competition

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‘It was awesome to meet the other teams since we just connected – all on the same wavelength – students up for a challenge from around Australia.’

Curtin student Yusuf Syaid is describing the experience of competing in the iNexus Robotics Competition held at Curtin on 5 December 2009.

Yusuf’s team, the Block Pirates, came equal second with a team from Swinburne University of Technology. They also picked up the Keepad Interactive Campus Travel People’s Choice or Coolest in Competition award.

A team representing Adelaide University took top honours and a RMIT team won the M3 Design Award.


Watch the robots in action. [Video 3.46 minutes]

Although they missed out on the big prize Yusuf said the interaction between the teams was definitely the highlight of the competition.

‘I was talking with the Uni of Adelaide guys about their choice of building materials, controllers and sensors…I wanted to know why they solved and implemented the robots the way they did according to their interpretation of the rules,’ he said.

‘They had some problems with one robot continually blowing its fuse, and I ended up thinking, “How can I help them?”‘

Yusuf was particularly impressed with the Swinburne team’s achievements.

‘They did some hardcore assembly, building their electronics board manually,’

The competition was the Australian qualifying round for the Techfest 2010 ANTZ Challenge to be held in Mumbai in January 2010.

Based on the emerging field of swarm robotics, the ANTZ Challenge requires teams to build two autonomous robot ‘ants’ which must work together to locate, collect and store ‘sugar cubes’ – all without input from their creators.

The complexities of this challenge proved very tough for the robots competing on the day, with no team enjoying a smooth run.

A hardware glitch at the beginning of their run saw the members of Block Pirates racing to the back of the auditorium to furiously identify and work on the problem.

Yusuf said this team spirit had characterised the entire project.

‘We have had heaps of problems that we had worked through before the competition – the person who realised the problem would exclaim loudly, and everyone would stop what they were doing and gather ’round to solve it in the most optimum way.

‘And credit for solving problems wasn’t really taken as a big thing; we fixed the problem and moved on,’ he said.

One member from each of the top three teams has won a trip to Mumbai to compete in the finals.

For the Block Pirates, this role has fallen to Yusuf.

“I’m the hardware guy so it’ll be good for me to go in case anything breaks in transit, and hopefully I’ll be able to arrange a fast internet connection so the other guys can support the software online,’ Yusuf said

‘If I have another group project out there in the world, I hope to have as capable a team as I have for the iNexus Competition.’

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