Dextrous Cambridge robot takes international prize

A team of Cambridge students has won first prize at an international competition to test the skills and dexterity of robotic arms.


The Robotic Grasping and Manipulation Competition took place recently in Vancouver, Canada, and was organised by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. Robots were required to carry out 10 different challenges, such as pouring water, hammering nails and picking up straws. Using their robotic platform CambridgeARM, the students had to complete all tasks autonomously within 120 minutes, scoring as many points as possible.

“The tasks were determined prior to the competition to allow us to develop the setup,” said Cambridge PhD student Josie Hughes. “On arrival, we had two days to reassemble the robot and tailor it to the specific items given.”

“The tasks varied in difficulty from picking up cutlery from a drawer and setting the table, to more complicated tasks such as using a hammer, and using vision to pick up a straw from a container and place it accurately into a plastic cup.”

Alongside Josie, the team also included fourth-year students Kieran Gilday and Michael Cheah from the Cambridge Department of Engineering’s Biologically Inspired Robotics Lab, led by Dr Fumiya Iida. After seeing off competition from the USA, China, and Japan, the team was rewarded with $3,000 in prize money, as well as a ReFlex 1 Gripper – a robotic hand featuring modular fingers and five degrees of freedom that should help further the team’s research.

“It was an incredible opportunity to go to Vancouver and meet all the other teams and we had a great time at the competition,” Josie continued.

“We had no expectations of winning, as many of the other teams were far more experienced, but we found out that we won by around 20 points. We are now hoping to take part in the Amazon Robotics Challenge.”