Team XFOX, a group of mechatronics and computing science students, pose with their first place trophy and medals for constructing the best robot (foreground) at the 2017 Rembrandt Robotics Competition.

Inaugural robotics competition challenges students to merge art and engineering

November 22, 2017

See the photo album of the event here:

The Applied Science Building atrium was abuzz last Friday evening as students competed in the final round of the 2017 Rembrandt Robotics Competition. The challenge: build a robot capable of reproducing (i.e. drawing or painting) a given image.

“It’s a fantastic outlet for students both in terms of creativity and what they’ve learned technically, to put it all together and have a bit of fun. It’s great to see a mix of students from all our schools,” says Kevin Oldknow, associate dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS).

Organized by the FAS student affairs unit, the competition provided an opportunity for students to work with peers from across the three schools: Computing Science, Engineering Science and Mechatronic Systems Engineering.

The challenge began in February, and since then students have been building and testing their robots. Only a handful of teams remained by November and they participated in the final round in front of an audience of students, staff, faculty and a six-member judging panel representative of all three schools.

“We’re evaluating the mechanical and software design of the robot, the quality of the output image, as well as the poster presentation where the team explained their design strategy and how the robot works,” noted Gary Houghton, one of the judges from the School of Engineering Science, as he finalized his scores.

“Finally, we’re also considering how diverse the teams are in terms of the representation of junior and senior students, genders and different schools.”

The other judges included senior lecturers Steve Whitmore and Michael Sjoerdsma from the School of Engineering Science, Corbett Gildersleve and professor Angelica Lim from the School of Computing Science, and lecturer Amr Marzouk from the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering.

Teams were given 90 minutes to complete the final challenge, which was to reproduce the 1969 “Takht-i-Sulayman Variation I” painting from Frank Stella’s Protractor Series.

The atmosphere was akin to a spectator sport: there was a countdown clock on display, audience members cheering and taking fan pictures with their favourite teams, ballot voting for the people’s choice award and an awards presentation that seemed more like a medal ceremony from a world championship event.

“We wanted to create an event where the spectators could engage with the participants and discuss the technical details of the robots in a fun manner,” says FAS student affairs coordinator Angelica Sypal-Kohout who was also the competition organizer and host.

In the end, only one team could take home the trophy and first place prize, which was selected to be XFOX, a team of computing science and mechatronics students.

The complete list of the team placements is provided below:

First Place – XFOX
Jagjot Singh, Ka Bo Law, Gagandeep Singh Bajwa, Jack Neng, Prithi Pal Singh

Second Place – Team Drawesome
John Nguyen, Michael Lam, Joshua Shin, Caleb Taylor, Eric Liu

Third Place and People’s Choice – Pacific Robotics
Andrey Gromov, Milos Lazic, Parshant Bombhi, Chris Connor, Nicholas Ip

Fourth Place – Remnants of Rembrandt
Alvin Ho, Caitlin Finnigan, Devpreet Bhullar, Elvis Eshikena, Rachel George, Refayet Siam

For an event that merged art and engineering, it was fitting that the cash prizes were accompanied by awards that were a work of beauty as well: medals constructed in-house using recycled wood in the shape of a painter’s palette (for placement medals) or a paintbrush (for people’s choice medal), as well as a 3D printed trophy for the first place winner. The winning team’s name will also be engraved on the FAS competition plaque that will be kept on display and acknowledge the winners of the 2017 and future years’ competitions.