STEM

Robotics competitions powered by AARNet inspire young people to pursue STEM

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Humanoid robots clash in a sporting arena, trying to mimic the dexterity of real players. Meanwhile, another robot is trying to work its way around debris, finding its way through a rubble-filled landscape in search of injured people during a disaster. Yet elsewhere, a slew of robots compete to load a rocket full of supplies on another world, before a deadly sandstorm wipes them all away.

This isn’t science fiction, Australian teams are competing on the world stage to design robots of the future, capable of any task thrown at them.

This year, AARNet has supported two international robotics competitions that aim to inspire young people to pursue STEM careers.

RoboCup 2019

At RoboCup 2019, held in Sydney in July, over 170 teams from universities and research laboratories around the world compete against each other. Teams programmed robots to perform different tasks, including working on a factory floor, providing rescue services during a disaster and even competing in robot soccer.

While robot soccer might seem like just a bit of fun, teaching robots to move and manipulate objects more intelligently can be used in industry and academic research.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has won the competition five times, snagging their last title in 2015. Their program for the humanoid robot that year, named Nao, inspired many of the designs other teams now use for this year’s competition.

Robocup isn’t just about competing for fame and glory. At the end of the competition, all teams release the code behind their competing robots. The aim is to share information, so participants can learn from the winners and improve their designs each year.

As a network sponsor, AARNet provided reliable high-speed internet to the participating world-class robotics engineers, programmers and designers. On competition day, this meant teams could program and play their robots seamlessly. As a STEM initiative, AARNet was also there to support members of the AARNet community, including UNSW, University of Sydney and CSIRO Data61.

The First Robotics Competition

The FIRST® Robotics Competition  is an international high school robotics competition and Australia’s top event for robotics students. With over 1200 students competing in 50 teams, students programmed robots to equip rockets and load cargo on an extra-terrestrial world in a gruelling time trial simulation.

This year, AARNet was a network sponsor, providing internet connectivity, eduroam Wi-Fi and live-streaming.

AARNet General Manager, Nick Cross and Education Outreach Manager, Jason Aruzza were judges for the Australian Regional Final, with Nick going on to judge the grand final in Houston, TX. Other AARNet staff were also at the Australian final, helping to run the event and provide mentoring for competing teams.

The competition encouraged students to engage in STEM and be recognised on an international stage for their problem-solving skills, coding and imagination. With Australia in the midst of a space industry boom, the extra-terrestrial robots these students program today could be precursors to the ones they work with in the future.

FRC and Robocup are developing smarter robotics for the future. Reliable, high-speed connectivity means seamless and adaptive communication between teams and their robots, and uninterrupted watching for fans.


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