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SRR Team Bio: University of Waterloo Robotics Team (UWRT)
TEAM: University of Waterloo Robotics Team (UWRT)
Members: 60
Hometown: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Spokesperson: Steven Waslander, faculty adviser and team lead

University of Waterloo Robotics Team graphic University of Waterloo Robotics Team logo (UWRT) Team Name: University of Waterloo Robotics Team (UWRT)

The Road to Robotics: The team was founded in 2003 by engineering students who shared an interest in robotics. Originally divided into two groups, over time they combined into a single entity. Gatherings grew from lunchtime labs in borrowed space on campus to more formal sessions and a room to call home.

The team acquired the physical resources of their tools and necessary equipment through several endowment funds, donations and corporate sponsorship, allowing them to advance their capabilities and be competitive. Over the years, their popularity has grown and they have taken a more formal shape. The team competes annually in several events, and the program has become popular with students across all majors and disciplines. It has 60 members, with a highly active core of 20 graduate and undergraduate students.

Entering Centennial Challenges: "We heard about it in the news, when the Centennial prizes were announced," said UWRT faculty adviser and team lead Steven Waslander. "We are very glad to have a challenge that really pushes the boundaries of robot navigation; the difficulty is what drew us to the competition."

Team Strategy: While some teams number to just a handful of members, the group's large size has been an advantage, said Waslander. "Our strategy has been to try many ideas in parallel and let them battle for supremacy," he said. "Especially in mapping, this has been very useful, allowing us to create multiple independent motion estimates and compare them for robustness improvements.”

As the time to the competition winds down, UWRT is looking forward to the final product. "The team is very active, very happy, and enthusiastic about putting a great entry together," said Waslander.

Dividing the Workload: With such a large team, they were able to compartmentalize the tasks and work into several tracks to help them get the work done efficiently. "The work is divided into six threads: hardware, mapping, motion planning, sample detection, arm planning and control and mission planning," said Waslander. This allows the students to divide up and contribute where their skills and interests are strongest.

Facing Challenges: Waslander said that keeping the robot under the weight guidelines has been one of the team's challenges. According to the official rules, a robot entry may not exceed 80kg (roughly 176 pounds), and this includes motors, batteries, computers, decorations, switches and anything that does not remain attached for the entire challenge. Getting the most out of the regulation-permitted sensors and having all things run smoothly so the team can conduct full mission testing has also been a task.

Looking Toward the Competition: According to the rules of the competition, teams that are non-U.S. residents may compete, but are not eligible to win prize money, but that has not deterred the UWRT. "There was no way around this from the organizers' point of view, but we were so committed to the challenge that we decided to pursue it anyways, for the love of the game," said Waslander.