An Ewok doll stands beside an autonomous robot designed from the University of British Columbia’s Engineering Physics 253 course in preparation for the programs’ annual robot competition (Photo by Clare Kiernan/University of British Columbia)

Star Wars robots to the rescue at UBC annual competition

Students created fully autonomous robots for final exam in engineering physics course

It was a day of heroics at UBC’s Vancouver campus on Thursday, as engineering students faced the task of saving Ewoks and Chewbacca from the evil Empire.

The annual Star Wars robot competition is the culmination of the required second-year course Engineering Physics 253 – Introduction to Instrument Design. Parents are invited to see the final results.

“It’s not usual to bring family into students’ final exams, but that is what is happening today,” said Andre Marziali, director of engineering physics at UBC, who has been teaching the course and leading the competition for 18 years.

Sixteen teams of students have worked throughout the summer to build autonomous Ewok rescue robots from scratch. Autonomous – meaning, the robots have to navigate the course all on their own, without their builders driving them via remote control.

Each team has two minutes to locate and rescue as many Ewoks, represented by plush dolls, as they can to earn points, while steering around various hazards without triggering an alarm and sending their cargo back to the start along a metal zipline.

Extra points are awarded for saving Chewbacca at the end of the course.

In previous competitions, the robots have had to follow black electrical tape up a ramp, then follow an infrared signal to detect the edge of a cliff, then reach down and pick up a doll.

This year, Marziali added two six-inch gaps within the course. “Not sure how people will get to the other side, but we thought we’d add a gap.”

The course included a small version of R2D2, which emitted infrared signals at either 1kHz or 10kHz.

“When R2D2 is emitting at 10kHz, it is safe to enter the Empire stronghold. He has disabled the alarm,” Marziali said. “When he is emitting at 1kHz, it is not safe.”

Marziali elaborated on the advancements of the competition in recent years.

“The student’s ability to go to the internet, go to various websites, developers and get information on brand-new technology, has outstripped our ability to keep up as instructors, to the point that we are now facilitating their learning, more than teaching.”


@kieranroconnor
kieran.oconnor@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Warfield removes diseased trees

Dutch Elm disease is taking a toll on village trees

Trail Life Chain to be held Saturday

Annually, Life Chains are held in Canada and the U.S. with over 30,000 participants in Canada alone

Drug use a problem at Trail hockey games, warn RCMP

Police recommend changes to Trail Memorial Centre washrooms

Montrose moves to ban pot retail

Retail, production and distribution of non-medical cannabis sales prohibited under Montrose bylaw

Castlegar, Grand Forks areas to see cleaner winter roads under new contract

YRB set to take over 10-year maintenance contract on Monday

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Tempering the B.C. cannabis legalization ‘gold rush’

Retail selling of marijuana offers potential business opportunities and pitfalls

B.C. cancer patient’s case exposes gaps in care for homeless people: advocates

Terry Willis says he’s praying for a clean, safe place to live to undergo the cancer treatments he needs after he was denied chemotherapy because he lives in a Victoria homeless shelter.

Trump boasts of America’s might, gets laugh at UN

President Donald Trump received an unexpected laugh at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Federal use of A.I. in visa applications could breach human rights, report says

Impacts of automated decision-making involving immigration applications and how errors and assumptions could lead to “life-and-death ramifications”

Rattie scores 3 as Oilers blank Canucks 6-0

Vancouver slips to 1-5 in exhibition play

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

Most Read