From a young age, robots have fascinated me. I have always wanted to develop technology that could help others in the future. When I joined the VIP Team; R²: Robo-re-Cycle I was over the moon. I am a Mechatronics Engineering Student, and the opportunity to join a team of like-minded individuals working on an autonomous robotic arm was a no-brainer.

The R²: Robo-re-Cycle project aims to develop a robot that can perceive, think, and act to prevent waste electronic waste from going to landfills. The project aims to help combat the growing amounts of technological waste by programing a robotic arm able to take apart electronic waste in order for it to be recycled. Watch our video to find out more.

At first, I was nervous about my lack of experience working on robots, and apprehensive about how I would complete tasks for the project. Although, I committed to the project and the greater mission which it stands for - to stop e-waste. After our team introductions we jumped right into closing the research gap and gaining a more detailed understanding of the problem at hand. After a couple of weeks, I was assigned the project to develop a machine learning system to handle uncertainties in the marchine perception module for our robot. Machine perception is the capability of a computer system to interpret data in a manner that is similar to the way humans use their senses to relate to the world around them. To understand different perception modules, I conducted research on machine learning techniques as well as the software and programs used to aid with detection.

Unlike typical courses at UNSW, engaging in a Vertically Interegrated Project (VIP) provides a great deal of freedom and allows you to pursue your own ideas. With the guidance of my professors and input from my peers, I was able to gain insights and to reach an appropriate solution, which I could test and develop further.

The steps undertaken to prototype and design have provided engineering students like myself with invaluable experience. It has given me a new understanding for the things I have learnt in my courses and how they can be applied to actual projects. For example, when I was developing my machine learning methodology, I was able to apply knowledge gained from coding courses such as COMP1531 to implement the code required for my perception module.

The project has helped me consider more design possibilities in the future that I would like to develop and given me insight into how design is conducted to tackle the real-world problem of e-waste. 

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