FOUR mechanical engineering students from INTI International University (INTI) developed a robot with built-in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the purpose of keeping recreational parks clean by picking up and sorting out garbage for recycling.
The second year students recently returned from Universidade Salvadore (UNIFACS) in Brazil, where they competed at the Laureate Award for Excellence in Robotics Engineering. They placed second at this year’s competition.
Under the guidance of Assoc Prof Dr How Ho Cheng and Dr Gilbert Thio from INTI’s Faculty of Engineering and Quantity Surveying, the four friends developed a plan that fit the year’s competition theme, “Environmental Sustainability” with an emphasis on cleaning and maintaining parks with the use of a robot.
They started working on this plan last year and brainstormed with their supervisors on creative solutions.
They received news in November 2016 that their proposal had been successfully shortlisted as one of the top six selected proposals from 16 other worldwide submissions from partner universities within the Laureate International Universities network.
The students then started to build a functional AI robot prototype.
Despite being only second year students from the mechanical engineering programme and having limited knowledge and experience in electronic circuits and coding, Sunder Raj Sundara Murthy, Vinod Krishnan K Arvindra Dass, Chan Wah Biao and Tushentan Ravishandran proved they could do it by learning from faculty members, friends and online videos via YouTube.
“I was very impressed by their capabilities and unconventional means of picking up important skills through the Internet and by observation, as it helped them tremendously in developing the robot,” said Dr How who was the lead supervisor for the team.
Fellow supervisor, Dr Thio provided guidance whenever the students encountered practical problems in writing codes and in integrating the various electronic components into a system.
The team impressed the judges with their presentation skills during the question-and-answer session.
“It was amazing to see the different creative and unique final designs from all teams. I was proud that our students took the opportunity to visit each teams’ booths to understand their designs. I always believe that sharing is the best way of learning,” said Dr How.
Team leader, Sunder Raj shared how his team faced different challenges throughout the project.
“When we were in Brazil, we found out that we were the only team comprising four mechanical engineering students. All the other teams were students with backgrounds in electrical, electronic or AI, which gave them the extra edge in this competition,” said Sunder Raj.
Aside from winning the second grand prize, which included a cash prize of US$6,000 (RM25,980), the students had the opportunity to visit landmarks in Rio de Janeiro. Dr How also visited the lab at UNIFACS and learnt about the teaching and learning environment there.
Returning home with the award winning robot named Eco Park Rider, the four friends had the opportunity to showcase it to first year engineering students, INTI staff and guests during the official launch of FabLab INTI.
Launched by Dr Joseph Lee, deputy vice-chancellor of INTI International University, FabLab INTI is the first of its kind in a private education institution in Malaysia. Equipped with facilities that are essential for prototyping, student innovators across various disciplines can access the FabLab to bring their imagination to life with the guidance and assistance of the Lab Advocates. One such example of a working prototype was the Eco Park Rider, which was built in parts at the FabLab.