A flexible robot from scratch

Nanyang Polytechnic graduates Dinesh Mangalanathadurai (left), 19, and Lin Yong Qiang, 22, working on their robot at Nanyang Polytechnic. They will be taking part in the Mobile Robotics category in the WorldSkills competition in Brazil next month. Th
Nanyang Polytechnic graduates Dinesh Mangalanathadurai (left), 19, and Lin Yong Qiang, 22, working on their robot at Nanyang Polytechnic. They will be taking part in the Mobile Robotics category in the WorldSkills competition in Brazil next month. They were the winners in their field last year at the local edition of the contest.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Since March, two friends have been building and programming a robot from scratch.

For close to 10 hours every day, Mr Dinesh Mangalanathadurai and Mr Lin Yong Qiang have been experimenting with ways to make their robot more flexible and accurate - from adding printed circuit boards with more sensors to motors and grippers that serve as "hands".

Their invention will be heavily scrutinised at the WorldSkills contest in Brazil next month, when it will be assessed by how well it carries out tasks such as picking up objects at different heights and delivering them to customers. It will also be judged by its speed and accuracy.

The pair graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic's (NYP) electronics, computer and communications engineering course this year. They were the winners in their field last year at WorldSkills Singapore, the local edition of the contest.

A team that NYP sent in 2009 for the international competition in this category won bronze.

Mr Kannappan Iynkaran, a manager at NYP's school of engineering, said: "We are hopeful that they win a medal because we've put in a lot of work, but it's hard to judge the chances because it's a brand-new game this year."

He explained that this is the first year that competitors are required to make a robot from scratch, with only a base kit provided by the organisers. In previous years, 80 per cent of the robot was built, and contestants needed to carry out only some programming work.

Said Mr Lin: "This experience has brought programming to life."

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'A flexible robot from scratch'. Print Edition | Subscribe