Robby Lopez and his team manoeuvred their robot to victory on the world stage
Last year, Robby Lopez led a team of fellow engineering students to take top honours in the Australasian National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition (NI-ARC) in Melbourne.
Team members Alice Lawn, Tessa Phillips, Alex Campbell, Hamish Colenso, Joseph Shadwick and Henry Williams, the group’s supervisor, joined Robby to beat 15 other university teams from Australia and New Zealand with their autonomous mining robot, Michelangelo.
To qualify, the team had to achieve four milestones during the year, which tested different aspects of the robot’s capability. In the final, the robots were required to navigate an obstacle-filled course, and identify, pick up and move objects to designated locations in the shortest possible time.
Support and screw-ups
Robby says he never imagined going to university and having the freedom—and support—to build a robot the way his team did for the competition.
“I definitely gained a lot of skills using products and services and software that are used in the real world. And we got to rub shoulders with big players in the robotics world as well!”
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the team who learnt from trial and error.
“I guess the screw ups are all part of it and it’s good to just laugh about the mistakes and learn from them. In fact our robot caught fire mid-testing so that was fun to watch at least, but we talked to the lecturers afterwards and they really helped us pinpoint the problem and work forward from that.”
Back in the ring
Robby and a new team returned to NI ARC in 2014 with a brand new robot called Bolt! The competition challenge was a little different this year so Bolt! was built for speed. Bolt! and the team worked hard at the competition finals and picked up the Best Design Award but didn't take out the overall top spot this time.