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Tsinghua Computer Team Won International “Crawl and Operate” Contest

Whether it is sprinkling salt, cutting paper or pulling straw…in our view, it is a simple action. In science fiction movies, robots can complete these actions with ease. However, designing a robot to complete such actions is not so easy.

 In October 2016, Tsinghua students team led by Professor Sun Fuchun from the Department of Computer Science and Technology participated in the “Crawl and Operate” contest of the 29th International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. There were three tasks involved – “Automation”, “Manipulation” and “Simulation.” Tsinghua team won two first places and a third. Some of the tasks were pulling straws, grasping fruits and other tasks which requires fine motor skills.

 In order to participate in the competition, Professor Sun and his students prepared for three months straight. According to the original plan, team members should place sensing cameras on top of the robot arm but during the course of the experiment, but they found that when the robot is reaching out to grab hold of things, their movement would cause the sensor images to become blurry. It would reduce the success rate of the experiment. Thus, under the guidance of Professor Sun, team members changed their plan and placed the sensor on top of the robot’s head. This continuous fine-tuning lasted for two whole months.

 “Robotic research must be made one step at a time. If we cannot overcome a problem, then we need to focus and cooperate to find that solution.” According to one of the team members Yang Chao, a second year postgraduate student from the Department of Computer Science and Technology, “There is a need for cooperation and collaboration.” It included cooperative efforts of 10 members from not only the Department of Computer Science and Technology, but also the Department of Physics, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and other departments.

 Since logistics and transporting the robot proved to be too cumbersome, Tsinghua team had to rent a robot from an agent in South Korea before the contest. In order to ensure the new robot can function well on the day, the students went to South Korea three days in advance to solve debugging issues. In those three days, they would make adjustments and return back to their hotel at 2 or 3 in the early morning.

“Our team has always been on the roll. We are always well prepared, focused and ready,” said Yang Chao. What left him with a deep impression is that a team from US “failed since they did not make any advanced plans in debugging when using their new robots.”

 During the two days of intense competition, Tsinghua team won the championship in automation. They focused on independent environmental perception as well as planning and “crawling” strategies. In manipulation, they explored the design mechanism of the robot. They became the only team out of the whole group to take home awards for two categories.

 Note: This article was adapted from the website: