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

Langley rollover crash slows traffic on 200 Street in Willoughby

Crews called to Monday afternoon collision involving two cars

Township mayor Jack Froese talks short- and long-term goals for third term

Tree bylaw, pot sales among topics that will need attention in coming months

Used election signs could serve as emergency shelters, candidate says

Langley council hopeful wants to build one-person foul weather shelters for homeless

Four-vehicle collision shuts down section of Highway 10 in Cloverdale

One driver transported to hospital with what looked to be non-life threatening injuries

Langley player to compete in first NCAA basketball tournament in Canada

Former Brookswood star Louise Forsyth to play in Vancouver Showcase

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

Vancouver mayoral hopefuly admits defeat, congratulates winner Kennedy Stewart

Ken Sim of the Non-Partisan Association apologized for the time it took to acknowledge Stewart won

Mental fitness questioned of man charged in Chilliwack River Valley shooting

Peter Kampos told his lawyer ‘his dreams are being stolen and turned into drugs’ at Surrey Pre-trial

Fraser Valley mom stuck in Africa over adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran have been waiting four weeks to bring son home

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

Most Read