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The latest in ultra-affordable robots: AFRON competition announces winners

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28 March 2014



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MIT_printable_robot_Foldable
MIT’s printable robot wins first place in Hardware category.

In 2012, the African Robotics Network (AFRON) challenged the robotics community to design a $10 educational robot that could inspire kids worldwide about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. With so many expensive products on the market, the goal was to create a class of robots that are “an order of magnitude less expensive than existing products”. The latest iteration of the competition challenged teams to enhance upon the winning 2012 designs, and to develop easy-to-use software and curricula to go with them. AFRON announced the winners earlier this week.

The big winner for the competition was the print-and-fold robot from MIT, which won first place in the Hardware and Curriculum categories, and second place in the software category. This robot is made from a “patterned 2D sheet, which is folded and then equipped with actuation mechanisms and electronics,” allowing for quick, low-cost assembly. The AERobot from Harvard followed close behind with first place in Software, and two second place spots, in the Hardware and Curriculum categories. The PANYABOT from iHub in Kenya also caught the judge’s attention, earning first place in the Community Challenge category and honourable mentions in the Software and Curriculum categories.

Creating affordable robots for STEM education was AFRON’s mission, but education is not the only area where ultra low-cost robots are desirable. Swarm robotics (where large numbers of robots might work together to perform collective tasks) is another area where robustness, simplicity and affordability reign high.

Says Mike Rubenstein, team member behind the AERobot, “In my research I have created swarm robots, which have many properties that are also desirable in education robots. After seeing the contest requirements, I realized that with some minor modifications, my swarm robots could make useful education robots.” The AERobot is in fact a modified version of the Kilobot robot, with Kilobot’s swarm capabilities removed, the charging and programming simplified, and with some additional sensors.

Despite Rubenstein’s previous experience developing low-cost robots, he says that creating an $11 robot with features like sensing, thinking and locomotion was a challenge, especially when considering that one of the assessment criteria for the competition was the ability of the robot to engage with students and teach them about robotics.

“The software and planned curriculum drove the robot design, so it was critical to understand how the design choices for the robot impacted the possible curriculum for the robot,” says Rubenstein. “For example, we wanted to use software that allowed the robot to be programmed over USB without any additional hardware, which impacted the robot shape, and choice of micro-controller.”

Jury members Dr. Sam Cubero (The Petroleum Institute, UAE), Dr. M. Bernardine Dias (Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, USA), and James Manyika (Mckinsey Global Institute) evaluated each of the submissions along several criteria, including robustness, cost, versatility, ease of use/assembly, documentation, and the ability to engage students and help them learn.

Here are the winners and runners up in each category:

Hardware category

First Place: MIT Printable Robot
(MIT, USA)
Ankur Mehta
Joseph DelPreto
Benjamin Shaya
Lindsay Sanneman
Daniela Rus
 Hardware
Second Place: AERobot
(Harvard, USA)
Michael Rubenstein
Bo Cimino
Radhika Nagpal
 https://sites.google.com/site/affordableeducationrobot/home/hardware
Honorable Mention: Tiny CNC Drawing Robot
(PlotterBot, USA)
Jay Shergill  Fully assembled 3-axis CNC robot, with pen

Software Category

First Place: AERobot
(Harvard, USA)
Michael Rubenstein
Bo Cimino
Radhika Nagpal
 software
Second Place: MIT Printable Robot
(MIT, USA)
Ankur Mehta
Joseph DelPreto
Benjamin Shaya
Lindsay Sanneman
Daniela Rus
 Software
Honorable Mention: PANYABOT
(iHub, Kenya)
Jessica Colaco
Wachira Ndaiga
Muuo Wambua
Elizabeth Ondula
James Kinyanjui
Brian Bosire
 

Curriculum Category

First Place: MIT Printable Robot
(MIT, USA)
Ankur Mehta
Joseph DelPreto
Benjamin Shaya
Lindsay Sanneman
Daniela Rus
 Curriculum
Second Place: AERobot
(Harvard, USA)
Michael Rubenstein
Bo Cimino
Radhika Nagpal
 https://sites.google.com/site/mitetag/
Honorable Mention: PANYABOT
(iHub, Kenya)
Jessica Colaco
Wachira Ndaiga
Muuo Wambua
Elizabeth Ondula
James Kinyanjui
Brian Bosire
 

Community Challenge Category

First Place: PANYABOT
(iHub, Kenya)
Jessica Colaco
Wachira Ndaiga
Muuo Wambua
Elizabeth Ondula
James Kinyanjui
Brian Bosire
 
Second Place: ARX LollyBot Workshop
(Ashesi, Ghana)
Wumpini Alhassan Hussein  http://static.wixstatic.com/media/7efb83_8aa296b40db74fb5a002f2e80f279683.png_srz_p_992_558_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srz
Honorable Mention: Tiny CNC Drawing Robot
(PlotterBot, USA)
Jay Shergill  

 

 

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Hallie Siegel robotics editor-at-large
Hallie Siegel robotics editor-at-large





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