UBC engineering students make rescue robots for grades and glory

WATCH: A team of UBC engineering physics students is putting their projects to the test in a classroom obstacle race involving robots and stuffed animals in need of a rescue. Elaine Yong explains.

In the future, the second-year engineering physics students at the University of British Columbia’s will build great things, of remarkable design, that will help untold people around the world.

But on Thursday in the Hennings Building, the name of the game was rescuing stuffed animals with tiny robots.

READ MORE: UBC students build bomb-sniffing robots

“They build from scratch machines that are amazingly advanced,” said Bernhard Zender, an Engineering Physics instructor, at the finals of the pet-rescue robot competition.

“They have to do pretty much everything, from mechanical design, electrical circuits, and they have to write program to operate the whole thing.”

The event was the final exam in their prototyping course taken over the summer. Sixteen teams worked on building the robots, which then raced against each other in an obstacle course to rescue the cuddly creatures.

It’s a task not for the faint of heart – even for an engineer.

“A third of the robots don’t even start on competition day. My goal was to just at least get one point, so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of my family,” said Grace Shaw, part of the team that built Florence and the Machine.

While Shaw’s team managed to advance to the finals, they lost to the robot known as Bobbot.

“Five weeks, we spent on average 10 to 12 hours each day. In addition to that, we had our academic courseload,” said Andrew Ho, one of the students on the winning team.

“We had to juggle four courses and building a robot.”

© 2015 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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