During the pandemic, UESTCers not only stayed home while carrying on study, but also utilized a variety of conditions to carry out "cloud researches" on their own initiatives. After advancing successfully to the "MBZIRC2020 Global Finals", members of UESTC International Robotic Team transformed the air-ground cooperation robot developed by themselves into an "ingenious assistant" with disinfection function for the pandemic prevention and control of communities, which was highly praised by all parties.
In June 2019, the Abu Dhabi International Robotic Team of UESTC, which is composed mainly of undergraduates, smoothly entered the "MBZIRC2020 Global Finals", becoming one of the five Chinese universities that rose to the finals. In February 2020, the team was unable to compete in the UAE (The United Arab Emirates) due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As the nation made concerted efforts to tide over difficulties, members who studied at home made full use of their professional knowledge to make suggestions and fight against the pandemic.
During the outbreak of the pandemic, hospitals, communities, hotels and airports were under heavy pressures of disinfection, and disinfection staffs were at risk of infection. In this regard, the team leader Yang Fangjian proposed that the self-developed ground-based omnidirectional mobile robot can be applied to provide practical supports for the pandemic prevention and control by transforming it into a disinfectant spraying robot to assist in the community spraying and disinfection tasks. The idea was immediately accepted and supported by team members and the coach Mr. Fang Liyong as soon as it was proposed. After a series of online discussions and implementation of the program deployment, the team was finally decided to send the main equipment such as ground vehicle and other accessories to Yang Fangjian, supported by key members Liu Zhengyao, Deng Hongqian and Liu Zhitao and so on in remote collaboration. The team successfully transformed the ground-based omnidirectional mobile robot into a disinfection robot version 1.0 after 3 weeks of proof-of-concept, mechanical design and production, programming and debugging works. The robot can not only carry 50kg of disinfectant and work continuously for 2 hours, but also is advanced in autonomous navigation and obstacle avoidance, omnidirectional movement, simultaneous spraying of the sides and the tail.
When the commissioning was done, Yang Fangjian, on behalf of the team, submitted an application to the pandemic prevention and control department of his community to participate in the disinfection work. The community leaders highly appreciated UESTC students' spirit of contributing to "the fight against the pandemic" with their own knowledge, and actively coordinated and arranged the field test of the robot, as well as designated public areas for the robot to start autonomous disinfection. The test has achieved favorable results and recognition by the local residents and village committee, which has also won a good reputation for UESTC.
With the concerns and supports of the Academic Affairs Office of UESTC, the Abu Dhabi International Robotic Team of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics has successfully advanced to the global finals through nearly two years of preparation and three rounds of selection. The pandemic has prevented them from competing on the international stage with the top 30 teams around the world, though, the sense of mission remains at the bottom of members' hearts. Yang Fangjian, the team leader said, "It's such a pity that we couldn't represent our school to compete in the UAE, however, by transforming our robot into one with disinfection assistant function and fighting against the pandemic with the whole country, we are proud in another way. Our robot is flexible and I think what we are doing is really meaningful."
On the one hand, UESTCers took the initiative to transform and apply the robot designed for the Abu Dhabi International Robotic Challenge to the actual situation of fighting against the pandemic has reflected their patriotic sentiment and the sense of responsibility. On the other hand, this new attempt manifested practically and vividly the effect of the new engineering reform and education promoted solidly by UESTC and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a high-level and wide-ranging exploration of engineering education "based on real engineering", and UESTC's new engineering education philosophy "to arouse curiosity and stimulate potentiality". At present, the team has designed and finalized the intelligent disinfection robot 2.0 and it will be released soon.
Translated by Xu Jinlu, supervised by Long Mei.