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Building the perfect robot

Three days, no sleep, one robot

UOIT engineering students put their minds together for the international RI3D competition, where they were tasked with building a robot in 72 hours that could complete a set of tasks. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Engineering students at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology faced an uphill battle as they were given 72 hours to build a robot this past weekend.

Approximately 40 students in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences were taking part in the Robot in Three Days (Ri3D), an international competition where students were tasked with putting together a robot from scratch.

The students from UOIT were one of two schools from Canada, the other being the University of Waterloo, to participate in the competition.

Team captain Eric Whals was enthusiastic on the last day of the competition, noting that despite the fact they were behind schedule, they were always on task and they were living their dream. (Photo by Chris Jones)

The robot also has to be able to perform a task, such as shooting a ball into a net or climbing a wall.

The majority of students had previously participated in a high school robotics competition that is worldwide called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

Michelle Tsui-Woods, the staff advisor to the team of students, says the students were very keen to participate in the challenge.

“[Ri3D] serves as the official kickoff to the FIRST Canada, or the FIRST Robotics competition for high school students,” Tsui-Woods explains. “But these are undergraduate engineering students, and their challenge is to build a robot in three days, as opposed to the high school six weeks.”

Tsui-Woods also explains the students who participated came from all disciplines of engineering, not just one single field.

“[There are students] from mechanical, from mechatronics, to software engineering, to electrical engineering,” she says.

Tsui-Woods says she thinks it was going fantastic on the morning of the final day, but she also notes the students are the ones who would know better.

“We’ve been really pleased with how they’ve been doing,” says Tsui-Woods. “There is so much about engineering that is technical, and some theoretical, but also the other skills that they’re gaining to go alongside that is what will make them successful at work. So communication skills, teamwork, collaboration, all the other pieces that kind of hold together the whole package.”

Eric Whals, the student team captain, during the morning of the final day said, “We’ve definitely had some hiccups, had some setbacks, but we’re definitely working through them. We definitely might have bit off more than we can chew, but we’re going for the dream.”

With a laugh, Whals said, “It’s going pretty well. Behind schedule, but on task.”

Despite a late finish, the UOIT students were successful in creating a robot that not only was able to complete two of its tasks, but was also able to close two hatches. (Photo supplied)

At that point in the day, Whals said they had achieved getting the robot to move around, but were still working to get its arm to work “and actually be able to manipulate the game pieces.”

After all of the work, all of the planning, the sleepless nights, the students were able to finish their robot.

According to Samantha Munro, the communications coordinator for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the robot was able to perform all of the tasks they were hoping for.

At 11 p.m. of the final night, after some delays the robot was able to place balls in two of the three holes, as well as close the hatches on two doors.

At the time of publication, a video of the third test was not uploaded, and Munro was unsure of how many points they were given because of this.