Semester 1 Wrap-Up

Throughout the first half of 2021, UQ MARS had the opportunity to welcome three guest speakers from academia and industry. These presenters were invited to speak to our members about their latest projects and provide an insight into robotics and its related fields in industry.

Gryoscopic Bipeds: A Different Way of Walking with Dr Pauline Pounds

Our first guest speaker for the semester was Dr Pauline Pounds, a Mechatronics researcher at UQ with a quite possibly fanatical interest in drones, robots, and Star Wars. Pauline’s talk “Gyroscopic Bipeds – A Different Way of Walking” took students on a tour of the history of walking robots. She provided a deep dive into the science behind her Tiny Giant Robot, a bipedal robot that Pauline and her lab group have been working on for several years now (including 2020 President, Cameron Stroud, and 2020/2021 Technical Officer, Anastasia Laczko).

The Tiny Giant Robot

Pauline’s talk touched on her early research career, which largely focused on aerial robotics. As well as how recent years have drawn her focus towards bipedal robots – partly due to being inspired by the insanely cool robots from Star Wars. Pauline discussed many of the complex engineering challenges that bipedal robots pose compared to wheeled robots and quadrupeds, and how a background in drones has helped her to tackle them.

“Bipeds are much more challenging to build and that makes them much more interesting. They have to balance, they have to stand up right, they’re unstable and their actuation and sensing requirements are extreme.” – Pauline

Currently, the field of bipedal robots is dominated by extremely expensive and complicated humanoid robots. A unique gap exists in the market for low-cost alternatives such as the Tiny Giant Robot, which makes use of a Moment Control Gyroscope for balancing. Pauline talked about various mechanical, electronic, control, and safety aspects that were considered when designing the first iteration of the Tiny Giant Robot. Our mechatronics members found it insightful to see how the theoretical concepts that many of us had learnt during our courses were being practically applied. 

Pauline’s humour and extensive knowledge of robotics made for an engaging and informative talk, and we look forward to hearing more about the TGR and Pauline’s other projects in the future.

Video of Pauline’s Talk

Countdown to T-Minus 0: In the Realm of Astronaut Makers with Dr Ravi Margasahayam

Following Pauline’s talk, UQ MARS had the pleasure of collaborating with UQ Biotech, MESS, UQ AIML and UQ Pain as part of an industry seminar with the globally-renowned NASA. Dr Ravi Margasahayam, a systems engineer and launch pad expert, gave an insight into his journey through the aerospace industry.

Dr Margasahayam spoke to the collective societies about his passion for engineering, and his journey from his humble beginnings to become one of the world’s leading experts in System Engineering. As he put it, his career has taken him “from the Gateway of India to the Gateway of the Universe”. It was an eye-opening perspective for the many students in the audience, with a speech that really highlighted that anything is possible if you put passion and effort into your work. A massive takeaway for UQ MARS was the insight Dr Margasahayam gave into higher level engineering design.

Photo of Dr Margasahayam

Given his speciality in vibroacoustics, we were delighted when he showed us a snippet of some of his work in the field, giving examples from rollout fatigue tests that are used to determine if vibration is a critical cause of failure in launch pad engineering. He then concluded with a summary of the NASA Kennedy Space Centre, as well as a perspective of what it is like to work there. 

UQ MARS would like to thank both Dr Margasahayam and NASA for the presentation, and UQ Biotech for organising the talk.

Video of NASA Conference

Electronics Design: An Industry Insight with Scott Williams

The final guest speaker for the semester was Scott Williams, an electronics design engineer and the founder of Xentronics, a PCB consultancy based in Melbourne. As UQ MARS had given a beginner’s PCB workshop earlier in the semester, we were thrilled to hear he had accepted our invite to finish the workshop and give insight into what it’s like to design PCBs in industry.

Scott provided our members with some context about the types of roles within the electronics design industry. He then explained how the design process worked in a professional setting, covering everything from prototyping to design verification, and the legal complexities of complying with government electronics regulations. The audience was also incredibly eager to learn from his Altium design tips, which gave us some solutions to problems that most of us had never even considered while designing a PCB!

Photo of Scott Williams

The talk closed with the opportunity to see some of the PCBs Scott has personally designed firsthand. It was really awesome to see how many of the tips he had shown us were considered and implemented in his own electronics design, and the final products undoubtedly inspired many of the future electronics design engineers in the audience.

It was a pleasure to have Scott as a guest speaker, and UQ MARS would love to see him involved in the future!

Video of Scott’s Talk

UQ MARS would like to thank all of our guest speakers for their time and effort in making these events so incredibly educational and inspiring. We hope you enjoyed these talks as much as we did and can’t wait to unveil the exciting events we have in store for our members in Semester 2!

Written by Anastasia Laczko - UQ MARS Technical Officer, Nicole Harding - UQ MARS Secretary and Joshua Lai - UQ MARS President.

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