The AgriFoRwArdS Summer School was moulded slightly differently this year, with it actually being held in late February/early March, and being rebadged the ‘Spring School’ (just!).
The AgriFoRwArdS Students all travelled to Lincoln week commencing 27th February, to take part in the week of activities, which were set up at the Riseholme Campus. Alongside the days filled with exciting challenges, there were also opportunity for networking, at the Spring School Dinner and social bowling. The activities themselves are inspired by this years ICRA Conference Competition, which has been created by the University of Lincoln and University of Cambridge
Each year the ICRA Organising Committee invites proposals for competitions to the held during the conference. These competitions provide a unique venue for state-of-the-art technical demonstrations from research labs throughout academia and industry. This year, Dr Marcello Calisiti from the University of Lincoln, worked with Prof Marc Hanheide and Prof Elizabeth Sklar (also both from the University of Lincoln) and Prof Fumiya Iida and Dr Fulvio Forni (from the University of Cambridge) to put together a proposal for a robotic chef competition.
The CDT’s Spring School was a platform to develop knowledge needed for the competition. With students working together to develop the ‘robot kitchen’, students are now being encouraged to build on this, team up and enter the ICRA Competition itself.
So what did the students get up to?
Students were split into four groups, each assigned a different stage of the overall task of ‘cooking a full English’.
- Group A – Shopping – Students were tasked with programming a Tiago robot to identify different spices and sauces, pick up said sauce/spice and deliver it to the cooking station.
- Group B – Cooking – Students used a Baxter robot to pick up a bowl of beans (yes, as you can imagine, there were beans everywhere on more than one occasion!), pour it in to a pan, and then stir.
- Group C – Cooking – Students worked with a Franka arm robot, getting it to pick up a slice of bread, pop it in a toaster, and push the lever to turn on the toaster. Once the toast was done, the robot then picked up the toast and popped it on a plate.
- Group D – Serving – This group also worked with a Tiago robot, but this time, programmed it to not only move a full plate of breakfast from one location to another, but also to answer the judges questions!
Alongside the main challenge of the week, there were also two well received social evenings. The first was a student led progress review activity, where students met in the Student’s Union to discuss their research, share ideas and get some real peer-to-peer support. PhD students then spoke with MSc student about the transition to the PhD, answering any questions about that stage of the CDT that they may have. The second event was a dinner, held at Prezzo in Lincoln, where students, staff and assistants all came together to socialise, get to know each other, and build connections. Following dinner, everyone headed off to bowling for the rest of the night!
So, what did the students enjoy about the week?
- “I enjoyed working with robots in the realistic settings”
- “So excited, I was attracted by the task and challenges, so i only sleep 4 or 5 hours. I was fully getting into the work”
- “The best part of the CDT is the people”
- “Loved the hackathon format…give us real robots and let us solve some interesting tasks”
- “…equal amount or levels of resources and challenges provided to all teams. It was literally a hands on experience.”
Thank you to everyone invovled
We wanted to say a massive thank you to all of our students for their time and effort during Spring School, in assisting us with achieving the objectives that were set out at the start of the week. What they all achieved as teams, not just with regard to the final presentation and demonstration, but also the soft skills they developed and were able to demonstrate throughout the week (team work, communication, problem solving, etc.) was excellent.
We also was to thank all the fantastic work of our support staff, without whom we could not have put together the weeks activities. With special thanks to Dr Marcello Calisti for hosting the event, and Francesco Del Duchetto, Leonardo Guevara, Omer Argin, Mithun Poozhiyil, Rob Lloyd, Andy Ham and Jonathan Cox for devoting their week to supporting our students with their technical needs.
We feel the week was worthwhile and enjoyable experience, and students were able to gather valuable skills and get networking with their fellow students. We can’t wait for next year’s Summer School!