Microrobotics team honored at international robotics conference

The UH Mānoa’s Microrobotics team received two impressive awards at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in mid-May in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Microrobotics team placed second in the micro-assembly event of the 2012 Mobile Microrobotics Challenge, which is organized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and held at the ICRA. This annual event is designed to promote innovation to overcome the challenges facing microrobots.

This year’s event attracted teams from the U.S., France, Canada and the Czech Republic, including from Carnegie Mellon, the University of Texas at Arlington, the U.S. Naval Academy, the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Waterloo.

In addition, members of the Microrobotics team gave a technical presentation at the conference about their microrobot system, and submitted a technical paper. The team was selected as a Best Conference Paper finalist. Only five finalists were selected out of over 800 papers presented at ICRA.

UH Mānoa’s microrobot consists of a very tiny air bubble inside of a microchamber. Light from a computer projector or a laser is used to heat the surface of the microchamber, which generates a force that moves around the microrobot. Since the microrobot is less than half a millimeter in diameter, it can be used to move around objects that are also less than a millimeter in size. This can be useful for building structures made up of living cells, which can help to grow tissues and organs outside of the human body.

All the microrobots in the Mobile Microrobotics Challenge are less than 0.6 mm in their largest dimension, and operate in miniature arenas under a microscope. The Challenge consisted of two events: a mobility event, in which the robots were timed as they moved around a figure-8 track, and a micro-assembly challenge, in which the robots assembled tiny triangles in a designated area. The UH Mānoa team finished in a tie for second place in the micro-assembly challenge, just behind the team from Carnegie Mellon.

These events are very challenging for such tiny robots, so UH Mānoa’s showing was very impressive. The UH Microrobotics team also finished second in last year’s challenge in Shanghai, China.