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Who are we?
We are the Cambridge University Robotics Society (CUR), a student-run society founded in 2015 for robotics lovers to gather. With more than 750 subscribers and over 60 active members involved in a variety of projects, CUR is the go-to place for anything robotics-related here at the University of Cambridge.
Our aim is to create an inclusive community for robotics lovers and promote robotics to make it accessible for all. Recognising the different levels of expertise of our members, CUR offers a range of projects for members to choose from. From the beginner-friendly Minibots and Unibots to the more advanced Rescue robot and Inmoov Humanoid, there is always something for everybody to be involved in. Meanwhile, we are passionate about introducing robotics to a wider audience by carrying out regular Outreach events, such as our Robotics for Girls Initiative and the SparkBot Day.
Arbie, the rescue robot, was developed by an undergraduate student team and was designed as an affordable and lightweight disaster response robot. This project started in the summer of 2018 after the team participated in the Rapidly Manufactured Robot Challenge (RMRC) held in Montreal, Canada and we are looking forward to competing at national and international levels. Manufactured entirely with accessible prototyping methods, such as 3D printing and laser-cutting, we aim for this project to act as a guide and knowledge base for the team and fellow engineers working in disaster relief.
The aim of project Inmoov is to create an enriching learning experience for our members and deliver a fully functional humanoid robot from the waist up. The name InMoov comes from the open-source project developed by Gaël Langevin, and the ultimate goal is to build a humanoid capable of interacting with the audience. Constructed from 3D-printed parts and an array of servo motors, it is currently able to pick up a banana and the team is still working on additional features.
Started in 2021, the project aims to develop a robot that can compete at FightFest, a fighting robot championship for students in the UK. The setup of the competition is similar to that of the classic British TV show Robot Wars, where robots compete in a bulletproof arena to immobilise their opponents. By designing a robot for such a destructive environment, we aim to develop a better understanding of the challenges that apply in harsh situations, where maximising reliability and robustness is the key to success.
In collaboration with DeepMind and the Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory (BIRL), a robotics research lab in the university engineering department (CUED), the CUR Research Project aims to get a robot hand to learn how to pick up objects through reinforcement learning. We use a Firefly arm with a passive hand from BIRL along with DeepMind's 'dm_control' package to experiment with various reinforcement learning algorithms.
Robocup@home is an undergraduate student-led project aimed at developing an open-source (both hardware and software), affordable and robust autonomous service robot for domestic environments, such as homes, offices, and restaurants. Our team is preparing to compete in acclaimed international robotics competitions such as RoboCup.
The Minibots is a fully guided entry-level project targetting newcomers to the society. The aim of the project is to introduce the fundamentals of robotics and important technical skills to beginners, by conducting a series of introductory workshops and trouble-shooting sessions. Participants work in groups of 4-6 and are expected to design prototypes, build circuits, assemble parts and programme on the Arduino microcontroller, which helps to develop teamwork and hands-on skills. They are then invited to participate in the intra-university Minibots Championship where the robots compete against each other to navigate paths, avoid obstacles, and collect tokens.
Unibots is an inter-university robotics competition where teams build autonomous robots to accomplish the competition tasks. With the main goals of promoting interest in robotics, increasing accessibility to all levels of proficiency and encouraging inter-university interaction, Unibots was co-hosted by the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton in 2022. The objective of the most recent game was to have four robots collect ping pong balls and tennis balls competitively and place them in their respective scoring area, which encouraged creativity and enabled participants to develop their coding skills and hardware skills.
Robotics for Girls
We are aware of the underrepresentation of women in STEM and would like to contribute our efforts in inspiring more girls to pursue a career in STEM, especially in the robotics industry. To achieve this goal, we have organised a few Robotics for Girls Outreach events targetting year 9-11 female students, where we went to secondary schools and sixth forms to teach the basics of robotics, electronics and coding.
Recognising the unequal distribution of resources in schools in the UK, we kickstarted the SparkBot Day Initiative for students to gain first-hand experience with robotics. Following the remarkable success of our pilot project at the Bury St Edmunds County Upper School, more volunteers from the society will be visiting schools near Cambridge that do not offer Design and Technology (or related courses) to guide students through how to build simple circuits on breadboards, choose the right component to serve the purpose and build their first very robot.
In addition to finding project opportunities and carrying out outreach events, CUR also hosts regular skills training sessions and fireside chats with professionals to prepare members for a career in the robotics industry.
So this is CUR, a vibrant, innovative and fast-growing society. Please stay tuned for our future articles to hear more about our projects, events and collaboration opportunities!