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

Incumbents and acclaimed mayors win elections all across B.C.’s north

Fraser Lake saw their first female mayor elected

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Northwestern BC Hydro transmission line to be refurbished

Replacing poles between Kitimat and Terrace far cheaper than complete new line

Voting set to start in B.C. proportional representation referendum

Two-part ballots now being mailed to all registered voters

Liberals write off $6.3 billion in loans as part of money never to be collected

That includes student loans and a $2.6 billion write off that came through Export Development Canada

Category 5 Hurricane Willa threatens Mexico’s Pacific coast

Hurricane-force winds extended 30 miles (45 kilometres) from the storm’s centre

Trudeau, McKenna to announce compensation for federal carbon plan

Provinces that don’t have a carbon price of at least $20 per tonne of emissions will have Ottawa’s plan forced on them

Okanagan parachute accidents kills American

Man, 34, dies in skydiving accident Saturday near Westwold, between Vernon and Kelowna

Man who died at BC Ferries terminal shot himself as police fired: watchdog

Officers didn’t commit any offence, says police watchdog office

Canada Post strikes leaves small shops in the lurch as holidays approach: CFIB

Rotating strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Halifax and Windsor

Voter turnout at 36% in B.C.’s municipal election

Vancouver saw 39% turnout, Surrey saw 33%

Harry and Meghan travel in different style on Australia tour

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Most Read