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Robot girl's mechatronic creation

HIGH-TECH: Mechatronics engineering student Zoe Renando is part of a team heading to Singapore to compete in the Maritime RobotX Championships.
HIGH-TECH: Mechatronics engineering student Zoe Renando is part of a team heading to Singapore to compete in the Maritime RobotX Championships. Contributed

IPSWICH mechatronics student Zoe Renando and her teammates have spent the past eight months trying to perfect a self-driving boat that could have major implications on the future of marine rescues and disaster recovery.

She is one of six students chosen to take part in the first international Maritime RobotX Championships, being held in Singapore next month.

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They have been tasked with using a basic boat design, also given to the 14 other international teams, and build on it using their own motors and electronic equipment. The marine robots will then face a complex series of challenges to determine which team takes out the title.

Ms Renando, now in her second year studying mechatronic engineering, hopes to one day turn it into a career in robotics.

She has taken to organising the logistics of getting the six-person team, and their high-tech boat, to Singapore to compete.

The competition includes two other teams chosen from Australian universities, and three teams each from four other countries, including the United States, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

QUT roboticist and team advisor Dr Matt Dunbabin said in a statement the competition would help develop the use and design of robotic boats for real-world tasks such as search and rescue and disaster response.

He said existing autonomous boats could get from point A to point B, but couldn't work in environments where the unexpected and unforeseen could happen.

"This competition is a test bed for creating the technology needed to build robotic boats that perform the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs human mariners can't, or don't want to do," Dr Dunbabin said.

"The technologies we're developing for the competition we believe will one day save lives."

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Competing is a big challenge for the team of students, both in designing the equipment for their boat and raising the money to get over there.

Ms Renando said the team was looking for sponsors to help meet the cost of freighting their boat to Singapore and meeting travel costs for team members. She estimated it would take at least $10,000 to get the team to Singapore.

Anyone interested in assisting the team can contact Dr Dunbabin by phoning 31380392 or by emailing m.dunbabin@qut.edu.au.

The Maritime RobotX Championships will be held from October 20-26.

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