Prof Bruce MacDonald (left) and Dr Mahla Nejati (right) stand by a kiwifruit picking robot

We’ve had a busy few months, including publications, conferences, demos at New Zealand’s largest agricultural show and even television appearances!

Professor Liz Broadbent was interviewed on Radio New Zealand around the dementia robots study which we ran. And then TVNZ heard this and wanted to interview us on Seven Sharp! You can watch the feature on the Seven Sharp Facebook page here.

Dr Minas Liarokapis has been working on a proposal for the use of robotics in construction, and met with government and industry leaders in Wellington to present the future of co-working with robots in the construction industry.

Public engagement

Back in November, alongside Kiwibots and University of Auckland Women in Engineering Network (WEN), we launched our first GirlPowered event (photo above), for young women in Y7-Y9 and their parents to come and play with some VEX robots, have a go at programming them, and, hear from some inspiring female engineers about their journeys so far.

In April, after two reschedulings, we attended the Kiwibots STEM expo, as part of the VEX Robotic Competition National Finals over Easter Weekend, and met some amazingly smart kids from all around the country. We hope to see them studying in our lab in the next few years.

The following weekend, we also attended the MOTAT STEM Fair, on a very warm Sunday in April. We showcased some of our educational robots, as well as two mechanical engineering students showing their work with RC cars and industrial grippers.

Two children watching line drawing robots on a table in front of them     Robot dancing on ground with man crouching to the left and watching

Photos by MOTAT

New Zealand Tech Week was 22-30 May 2021, and we joined forces with Newmarket Innovation Precinct here at the University of Auckland and TechTalk to have public tours through our labs and demos of our very early kiwi-fruit picking robots, as well as showing videos of our orchard robots doing their thing in the field.

Minas, and two students from the New Dexterity group attended the University of Auckland Distinguished Alumni Awards showcasing a robotic bartender which was serving up beers to the Distinguished Alumni awardees and attendees.

In June, we joined our Maaratech partners from the University of Waikato at Fieldays – the largest agricultural event in the Southern Hemisphere. We took along our VR and AR tech for grapevine pruning, which was very well received by kids and adults alike. Our UoW colleague Professor Mike Duke was interviewed on Radio New Zealand around all of agricultural robotics which were on display this year.

Our most recent events in the winter school holidays have been the New Zealand Robot Olympiad, which is in its 5th year here. This is the annual robotics competition for school students, and a division of the International Robot Olympiad Competition established in Korea in 1999. The best teams from this round are selected to represent New Zealand at the international competition in January 2022 – good luck!

We have also been part of a couple more WEN events, including Enginuity Day for Y13 female high school students and, another Kiwibots event building VEX robots and working in teams to compete in a race.

Teenage girls laughing as a pioneer robot navigates through a wooden maze     Teenage girls standing around a large table with a maze comprising red, green and blue blocks, with two robots racing inside it

A big thank you to everyone who volunteered their time for all of these events!

2021 updates

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