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

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Susan Simmons begins a 24-hour swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

The MS Athlete and ultra-marathon swimmer wants to be the first person to make the journey

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

PHOTOS: Tour de Victoria takes off

1,800 cyclists took off in the Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria for a city-wide loop

Crash snarles traffic on Highway 17

Traffic southbound is seriously delayed and northbound down to one lane on… Continue reading

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

RCMP looking for missing Duncan teen

Dallas Macleod, 18, was last seen on Aug. 10

Evacuation order issued in Island village due to “risk of falling debris”

Fire continues to threaten town’s only access road

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

Most Read