Microrobots in action: The UH microrobot (bright circular object) assembles tiny glass beads into a mini “UH.” Each bead is smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
The University of Hawai`i at Mānoa’s Microrobotics team placed third in the mobility event of the 2014 Mobile Microrobotics Challenge, held in Hong Kong from May 31 to June 2, 2014, as part of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
This annual event is designed to promote innovation to overcome the challenges facing microrobots, which are microscopic tools useful for a variety of applications. Attending this year’s event were teams from the U.S., France, Switzerland, Canada and Korea, including UH Mānoa, the University of Texas at Arlington, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, French National Center for Scientific Research, University of Waterloo and University of Alberta.
UH Mānoa’s microrobot consists of a small air bubble inside of a microchamber. Light from a laser is used to heat the surface of the microchamber, which generates a force that moves the microrobot around.
The microrobot is smaller than half a millimeter in diameter; thus, it can be used to move around objects that are also smaller than a millimeter in size. This is useful for building structures made up of living cells, which can help to grow tissues and organs outside of the human body.
All of the microrobots in the Mobile Microrobotics Challenge were smaller than 0.5 mm and operated in miniature arenas under a microscope. The Challenge consisted of two events: a mobility event, in which the robots were timed as they moved around various paths in a course, and a micro-assembly challenge, where the robots assembled tiny triangles in a designated area.
Said Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Aaron Ohta, the team’s advisor, “These challenging events really test the intellectual capacity and technological skills of the teams, so this award is a real testament to the Mānoa Microrobotics team’s accomplishment. The UH Microrobotics team has historically done well, finishing second in the 2012 and 2011 Mobile Microrobotics Challenges.”
Members of the UH Mānoa Microrobotics team are Wenqi Hu (electrical engineering PhD candidate), Qihui Fan (mechanical engineering PhD candidate), and Sammy Khamis and Edward Nerard (electrical engineering undergraduate students).
Source: A UH Mānoa press release