Department of Engineering / News / Cambridge team emerge victorious in international soft robotics competition

Department of Engineering

Cambridge team emerge victorious in international soft robotics competition

Cambridge team emerge victorious in international soft robotics competition

Three engineering PhD students have taken first place in the manipulation division of the RoboSoft 2018 Competition with their robot CambridgeArm. 

The RoboSoft 2018 Competition was a great opportunity and we met and talked to other teams from around the world. It was hard work and a nail-biting experience.

Third year PhD student Josie Hughes

The competition got underway during the first IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics held in Italy earlier this year.

Third year PhD student Josie Hughes and first year PhD students Luca Scimeca and Daniel Cardin-Catalan (exchange student) are from the Department’s Biologically Inspired Robotics Lab, led by Dr Fumiya Iida.

Using a robotic manipulation platform – CambridgeARM – which they developed and programmed themselves, the team successfully completed three tasks autonomously: moving a soft manipulator through obstacles to touch a remote point; picking up a number of challenging objects (balloon, bottle, ice cream cone); and opening a door handle. They were the only team to complete the opening of the door task, and due to their CambridgeARM gripper design, they also managed to manipulate the largest number of objects.

Josie said: “This competition was a great opportunity and we met and talked to other teams from around the world. It was hard work and a nail-biting experience; we prepared for the competition by developing an end manipulator specifically designed for the challenge. For the navigation through obstacles, we made the entire soft manipulator on-site in under 12 hours, which involved lots of gluing, hot gluing and programming.”

The team are now focused on the World Robot Summit due to take place in October. 

First prize in the Virtual Robot Simulation Competition

Meanwhile, Josie and Luca were joined by engineering graduate Michael Cheah in a separate robotics competition on behalf of the Cambridge University Robotics Society. They won first prize in the Virtual Robot Simulation Competition, part of the RoboCup Rescue Simulation League 2018 held in Canada recently. The mission of the League is to promote research and development in the socially significant domain of natural disaster.

And the Society also had a team take part in the League's Rapidly Manufactured Robot Competition – a land robot rescue challenge where real live disaster response robots were tested on their capabilities. The robot had to traverse multiple obstacles of different shapes and sizes, and involved a dexterity challenge, manipulation challenge which included the handling of a pipe, and sensor tasks such as motion detection and computer vision identification. The team members were undergraduates Kai Junge, Oliver Nick, and Cindy Lam, and their robot performed highest in the sensing and vision category.

Kai said: "Overall, this competition has raised all of our technical knowledge and skills. It was a fantastic learning experience."

  • Cambridge University Robotics Society is looking for sponsors ahead of the competition next year. To get involved or to find out more email Josie Hughes: jaeh2@cam.ac.uk 
  • Special thanks goes to the teams' sponsors: Cambridge University Engineering Society (CUES); Cambridge University Engineering Alumni (CUEA); ADHB (for supporting work on soft robotics); EPSRC sensor CDT (for travel grant assistance); Arm Limited (University Programme).

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