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Treasure hunting robot showdown tests UBC students’ technical prowess

Students in the physics and engineering program developed the bots from scratch

Students in UBC’s physics and engineering program had the chance to show their technological prowess in the 22nd annual Robot Treasure Hunt competition.

This was the first time the robot showdown had been held since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Sixteen teams of students built robots from scratch, competing to see which robot would best be able to retrieve “treasures” from a complex course filled with ramps, narrow archways, rocks, suspension bridges and ziplines without human aid.

For the last two years, students had to develop robots in their homes. The at-home robots were challenged with the “relatively simple” task of picking up a soda can from the floor.

Program director and engineering professor Andre Marziali said it was amazing to have students back competing in UBC’s Hebb Theatre.

“I’m immensely proud of our students — we have the best students on campus. The accomplishments they’ve managed during this course alone are immense.”

The competition is the culmination of a weeks-long summer program that teaches students what it’s like to be in a start-up research and development project environment.

But in the lecture hall, it felt more like an arena. Students cheered loudly as robots picked up “treasure idols”, avoided “magnetic bombs” and crossed treacherous gaps.

Marziali noted that many UBC graduates have gone on to found some of the province’s most prominent technology firms like Abcellera, Acuva Technologies, and Precision Nanosystems.

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