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Curtin’s robots are ready to take on the world

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The end of the 2009 academic year meant different things for different students: for Curtin’s Block Pirates it meant more time to teach robots to cooperate.

Block Pirates is one of several teams working to ensure their robots will be competitive in the iNexus Robotics Competition to be held at Curtin on 5 December 2009.

Hosted jointly by Curtin Business School, Curtin’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and ITT Bombay, the competition is the Australian qualifying round for the Techfest 2010 ANTZ Challenge in Mumbai.


Footage of one of the Curtin Block Pirates robots in action.

Block Pirates’ Yusuf Syaid said the team’s two robots were nearly complete and the challenge now was teaching them to communicate and cooperate effectively.

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.’

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

The robots must do all this without input from their creators and while avoiding the stiff penalties incurred for any breach of the rules – including collisions.

‘Just doing the whole thing quickly is the main challenge,’ said Block Pirates’ Mike Hamer.’

Block Pirates are one of two Curtin teams competing against teams representing universities from across the country.

Mr Syaid, – Block Pirates’ hardware specialist – said he was very much looking forward to seeing how the different teams had approached the challenges involved in the project.

‘How physically they’ve made them  – whether they’ve made them square, or rectangular or circular; what kind of block-acquisition tools they have,’ Mr Syaid said.

Mr Syaid said that the upcoming event held at SciTech, the night before the competition, would be the first opportunity the teams will have to get together.

‘There’ll be a little display – all the teams will be there with their robots so we can see what we’ve made and compare notes,’ Mr Syaid said.

‘There’s also an after-party planned just for the ‘bot teams to get together and to wind down.’

One member from each of the three top teams will travel to Mumbai to compete in the finals to held in January 2010.

But win or lose, Mr Syaid said participating in the competition as a team had been a great experience.

‘We’re pretty pleased with how it’s all gone so far, but in the end we all just want to have fun too,’ Mr Syaid said.

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

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