Celebrating the fourth edition of European Robotics Week (ERW), the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham will be taking part in a number of robot challenges from Monday 24 - Friday 28 November to showcase its broad and pioneering activity in the field of robotic research and development.


ERW offers the public five, fun filled days of over 300 robo-related activities across 25 European Countries. The week aims to inspire and encourage students to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related subjects, and highlights the importance of robotics in a wide variety of application areas.

The School of Computer Science, pioneer of research in the field of robotics, will be taking part in the RoCKIn 2014 competition hosted in Toulouse, France, and a STRANDS Robot Marathon, which will see Bob, and his fellow robotic friends, partake in an endurance challenge on campus. Jeremy Wyatt will also conduct his Inaugural Lecture, ‘Robot Life: A User’s Manual’, which aims to explore specific advancements in robotics and the developments and challenges current research into robotics is facing. These events will ensure students all across the University are exposed to an exciting, high-tech world.

The RoCKIn 2014 competition is a brand new EU funded event, bringing teams from around the world, including Birmingham’s Autonomous Robot Club (BARC), to gather at the breath-taking Cité de l’espace Science Museum to showcase their robots. BARC was established five-years ago in the School of Computer Sciences, to provide an extra opportunity for students to work on real robotics projects.

The team travelling to Toulouse comprises five members, who will put their robots to the test through varied scenarios and tasks highly relevant to real world processes. One task in particular involves helping Granny Annie, an elderly lady who needs some support to keep her healthy and doing the things she loves. Set in Granny Annie’s apartment, tasks will include: identifying and reacting appropriately to four different visitors, getting familiar with its surroundings and helping Granny Annie with everyday activities. The robots will be assessed against their performance in each of the three tasks, as well as their performance in two functionalities: object perception, manipulation and speech understanding. Lenka Mudrova, team leader for BARC said:

For undergraduate and graduates, this is an excellent opportunity to work with robotic equipment for the purposes of solving real world issues. Robotic competitions also present an opportunity for networking internationally. I wish the team all the best and look forward to putting our robots to the test!

The results of the competition will be announced on 30 November. Updates during the competition will appear on the School of Computer Science Twitter page.

The STRANDS Robot Marathon is EU-funded and led by University of Birmingham. The School will be running the marathon as both a project research activity, to help test software in tough environments for long periods, and as a public engagement activity. Bob, an advanced robot developed by Dr Nick Hawes and his team, will be competing against five other robots developed at Universities within Europe.


The STRANDS project aims to develop autonomous mobile robots capable of running for extended periods of time in normal, everyday environments. The Robot Marathon is an endurance competition in which participants in the project run their robot for as long as they can, with the purpose of covering as much ground as possible. Dr Hawes said:

“The STRANDS Robot Marathon is a great opportunity for us to test our cutting edge robot research in a real and challenging environment. It’s also a chance for people to see what robots today are really capable of, and get an early glimpse of the future of this revolutionary technology. This event highlights how advanced we are and I’m proud to be part of a high-tech university, where research meets excellent infrastructure.

“I’d also like to prominently thank the IT Services Network Operations Team and Library Services - without their hard work, this event wouldn’t have been possible.

Sometimes robot, Bob, gets stuck and will ask for help. So if you do see him stranded, don’t be shy and give him a push!

The robot marathon will be taking place on the ground floor of the library every day this week and tweeting with the hashtag #RobotMarathon. Follow @strands-project, and @BobStrands for live updates.

Jeremy Wyatt, Professor of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence from the School of Computer Science, will also conduct his Inaugural Lecture, ‘Robot Life: A User’s Manual’, during the ERW. The lecture will explore specific advancements related to the field of robotics that have allowed for marked improvements in the level of intelligence and robustness of robots over the last decade. This lecture, aimed at the non-specialist, intends to make accessible to all the developments and challenges current research into robotics is facing.


Professor Wyatt will also discuss the skills of robot, Boris, one of the first robots in the world that can dexterously grasp unfamiliar objects. Professor Wyatt and his team have taught Boris various ways of grasping objects - for example, a power grip, using its whole hand to curve around an object, or a pinch grip, which uses two or three fingers. Boris is then able to learn the different grips and adapt them to other unfamiliar objects without breaking or dropping them.

The event will be held on Thursday 27 November, 5:15pm in the Medical School Building (Leonard Deacon Lecture Theatre), followed by a drinks reception and tours of the robotics laboratory in the School of Computer Science.

Alternatively, if you can’t make it, tune in and watch online.