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ME Student Team Champion of International Soft Robotic Challenge

2017-12-18

A team of HKU Mechanical Engineering students supervised by Dr Zheng Wang won the “Soft Robotic Innovative Design Challenge” held in the 3rd Annual International Symposium on Soft Robotics in Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China, 15-18 December, 2017.

The annual event attracted keynote speakers, invited speakers, and participants from top engineering schools in robotics and soft robotics research from National University of Singapore, Tsinghua University, University of Hong Kong, Zhejiang University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, City University of Hong Kong, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Tianjin University, Xian Jiaotong University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan University, South China University of Science and Technology, etc.

A total number of 18 teams participated in the “Soft Robotic Picking Challenge” on 17th Dec 2017. The HKU-BCL team played against other top engineering school teams using the “HKU Edgy-2 soft robotic hand” developed by a mixed group of undergraduate and postgraduate students of HKU Mechanical Engineering. The picking challenge was divided into two sessions:   

-     First session: each team needs to pick 12 daily objects of various size/shape/weight, each item carries equally 5 marks, lift the item vertically by 20cm, move the item by 20cm horizontally, and put the item down without any damage. Slippage or falling result in zero mark for the given item.

-     Second session: each team needs to use the soft robotic hand to life a bucket of water carrying different weights. The maximum weight for each bucket is 5 kg. Each team can specify the weight within 5 kg by adjusting the water filled in the bucket. Each team has 3 attempts, with the highest weight taken as the record. The ratio of the lifted weight and the self-weight of the soft robot hand will be taken as the final mark. Maximum mark is 40.

-     Each team has 20 minutes of time to complete both sessions.

After a full day of intensive competition, Team HKU-BCL led by student Zhou Jianshu was the final winner. By successfully picking all 12 objects and lifting the maximum 5kg weight, Team HKU won the first place out of the 18 teams. They have also demonstrated significant improvement of their innovative design using origami structure instead of hyperelastic chamber for soft robotic actuators.

The origami-based design used in the challenge could provide substantially higher payload over conventional soft robotic hands while keeping low self-weight and inherent compliance. It has been filed by the Technology Transfer Office of HKU for provisional patent in the US prior to the challenge. The Edgy-2 soft robotic hand design has a very high potential for industrial applications.