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Curtin to be overrun by robots

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Robots from around Australia will converge on Curtin’s Bentley campus in December to compete for the chance to represent their country.

The robotics teams will be participating in the iNexus Robotics Competition, the Australian qualifying round for the Techfest 2010 A.N.T.Z. Challenge in Mumbai.

Held by the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT) Bombay, Techfest is the largest annual international science and technology festival in Asia.

Tim Keely, from the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Curtin, said the event is being hosted by ITT Bombay, Curtin Business School and the Curtin School of Engineering.

‘It’s very much an international, inter-faculty, student-driven collaboration,’ Mr Keely said.

Based on the emerging field of swarm robotics, the A.N.T.Z. Challenge requires teams to build two autonomous robot “ants” which must work together to locate, collect and store “sugar cube” blocks.

Once placed on the competition grid, robots must locate the blocks, formulate a plan for the division of labour and then set about the task of collection and storage.

And they must do all this without input from their creators.

Mike Hamer of Curtin team Block Pirates said coordinating the unloading of blocks will be  tricky because the robots must take turns, and only one robot can be in an unloading zone at a time.

‘We’ll put them on the grid, press some buttons for them to start, and then we’ll cross our fingers because we only have one shot to prove our robots can accomplish the task,’ Mr Hamer said.

‘Theoretically, the biggest challenge will be ensuring there are no collisions.

‘It’s a time-based competition too – it would be a fairly easy problem to solve if you could do it slowly – but to avoid collisions with the robots going full-speed, that’s going to be the challenge.’

Block Pirate Yusuf Syaid said the competition is an example of a venture that provides excellent opportunities for collaboration among the University’s various faculties and departments. Hosting the competition is a great chance for Curtin to affirm its place as a leader in technology and innovation.

‘The challenge now will be doing what we can to ensure Curtin can host the competition again next year,’ Mr Syaid said.

Two Curtin-based teams have signed up to the challenge: the Block Pirates and a team comprising members of the Curtin Robotics Club.

The iNexus competition will be held on 5 December 2009 in Curtin’s Elizabeth Jolley Lecture Theatre as part of an engineering expo featuring displays and workshops.

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