Waikato dominates in design department at robot competition

Nikhil Sethi and Michael Redstall with their winning robot design.

Nikhil Sethi and Michael Redstall with their winning robot design.

A team of Waikato University engineering students have taken out the Best Robot Design category for an international robotics competition in Sydney.

The team, WESRO, competed against 25 other universities from Australia and Singapore, in the seventh annual National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition on September 6.

It is the third year Waikato University has entered the competition, and WESRO software student Nikhil Sethi said it was a great opportunity.

"We got to learn a lot more in the exposure, and to travel to Australia and meet such great people, that was pretty amazing in terms of evaluating other robots and meeting other people," he said.

Sethi, 21, said the competition gave him an opportunity to see a little of where robotics is headed.

"I have high dreams. I want to work with Apple, Google, Tesla. I don't know if I will be specialising in robotics or Mechatronics, but this is a way to pick up as much experience as I can and learn about new things happening."

This year's theme was Transport Innovation, with each of the teams required to navigate a "smart city", earning points by quickly and efficiently changing road rules, avoiding obstacles, picking up "passengers" and returning home safely.

It was a challenging course, and because of issues with their sonar sensors and a blown fuse it meant they couldn't finish the track.

So it was the design itself that scored them the win by popular vote, though not everything went to plan.

Two days before the competition other team mate, Aflah Bahri, was up late fixing last-minute issues with the robot's circuits.

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"Some things went wrong," engineering team mate Michael Redstall said.

"But we got to talk to a bunch of students from other universities about how they had encountered the same problems as us. That was cool, just meeting other students.'"

Waikato University Department of Engineering facility advisor ChiKit Au said the competition is designed to encourage development and innovation in the field of robotics.

Students start from scratch at the beginning of the year, and because they are competing against countries with far more entries, the category win is something they can be proud of.

"It is very challenging for them, there is a lot of work…we will do it again next year because it is a good way for the students to learn."

 - Stuff

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