Team KAUST places 3rd at the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge

-By Francesca Serra

A team from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) competed in the inaugural Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC), held in Abu Dhabi, UAE, March 2017, and took a 3rd place finish in the ground robotics challenge.

The KAUST team was led by students and postdoctoral researchers from the Robotics, Intelligent Systems & Control (RISC) Laboratory , directed by Jeff Shamma, Professor of Electrical Engineering, in collaboration with the Image and Video Understanding Lab (IVUL) of Professor  Bernard Ghanem and the Computational Vision Lab (CVL) of Professor Ganesh Sundaramoorthi.

This year's event, organized by Khalifa University, was the inaugural MBZIRC competition, whose goal is to push the limits of autonomous robotics and to accelerate the development of this rapidly growing area of technology. Through its enticing $5 million USD in sponsorships and prizes, MBZIRC immediately established itself as a prominent international robotics event, attracting top robotics labs worldwide.

The MBZIRC competition consisted of three challenges, plus a triathlon type "Grand Challenge", all taking place in an outdoor arena and involving both aerial robotics and mobile ground robotics.



The KAUST team performed at its best in Challenge 2, in which an autonomous ground vehicle is required to locate and navigate to a remote panel, identify a valve stem on the panel, and finally grasp the appropriate tool among many to turn the valve, all without human intervention. Team KAUST led by the RISC lab, with its in-house robotic gripper design, suite of vision and proximity sensors, and autonomous algorithms, took 3rd place behind the University of Bonn, Germany, and the Technical University of Denmark.

"The newly established RISC lab found itself in a highly competitive international field of top robotics labs, including University of Bonn, ETH Zurich, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Georgia Tech, and many more," Shamma said. "Our team members worked very hard leading up to and during the event. It was an incredible experience, and we look forward to representing KAUST in future competitions."

The next MBZIRC will be held in 2019 with themes to inspire new technological advancements in the field.