Miri – 2 August 2021 – ‘Robo Curtin’, a team of engineering students of Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia), did their university proud recently by winning the first prize in the national-level RFS Drone Challenge Competition 2020-21.
The year-long competition was organised by RF Station Malaysia in partnership with Dassault Systemes, the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM), University of Nottingham, Asia Drone Technical Academy, Mawea Industries, SG Education Group and EVOLVE3D.
Competitors were challenged to design lightweight quadcopters (drones), simulate and optimise their designs, 3D-print their quadcopters, and demonstrate their flyability for delivery service companies to quickly and safely deliver and retrieve parcels. Part of the challenge included having to either increase the drone’s payload or optimise its flight duration.
The RFS Drone Challenge Competition 2020-21 was Malaysia’s first national-level 3D-printed drone competition aimed at developing lightweight quick delivery solutions. This unique event allowed university students to go beyond textbook knowledge to applying theories learnt in the classroom to solve real-world industry-focused challenges in a competition.
‘Robo Curtin’ comprised of Leong Yi Sheng (project manager), Tee Yi Kiat (3D designer), Ting Zhi Ming (simulation engineer) and Lucas Voon Khing Sheng (drone engineer).
Leong was responsible for team coordination, action plans, project reports and pitch presentation, while Tee developed the 3D CAD designs for simulation and optimisation. Meanwhile, Ting handled the task of performing finite element analyses and topology optimisation to ensure their entry met the competition requirements and conformed to safety and industry standards, whilst Voon Khing Sheng prepared and test-ran the drone prototype, as well as piloted the drone during the competition.
Supervising the team was Dr. Sukanta Roy, senior lecturer and Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Curtin Malaysia’s Faculty of Engineering and Science.
Dr. Sukanta credited Pro-Chancellor of Curtin Malaysia Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr. George Chan and former Pro Vice-Chancellor, President and Chief Executive Professor Emeritus Jim Mienczakowski for the team’s participation in the competition and his involvement as its supervisor.
“It was at the suggestion and encouragement of the pro-chancellor that we formed a team to compete in the competition,” said Dr. Sukanta.
Dr. Sukanta also expressed gratitude to the Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Science Professor Tuong Thuy Vu for his continuous support of the team throughout the competition.
According to Dr. Sukanta, the team members were hand-picked based in their skill sets and technical competencies to produce an innovative and robust drone design that met all the criteria set by the organisers. They were among the best of over 100 students who attended a one-day hands-on drone workshop organised by RFS Station at Nottingham University Malaysia in March last year.
“It has been an arduous one-year effort, made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been well worth it. The team’s outstanding achievement is testimony of the members’ commitment, technical knowledge and competencies, as well as the high standard of the courses and teaching, and the facilities at Curtin Malaysia,” he said.
In congratulating Dr. Sukanta and the ‘Robo Curtin’ team, Pro Vice-Chancellor, President and Chief Executive Professor Simon Leunig said, “We are glad that national and international competitions for engineering students continue to be held during this pandemic and that our students have the opportunity to participate in many of them. It is of course very heartening when they emerge the champions in a national-level competition like this.”
Professor Vu also applauded the team’s achievement, saying that it is a tremendous honour for all engineering and science students at Curtin Malaysia.
He added that the Faculty of Engineering and Science always encourages its students to participate in such competitions to give them the chance to connect theories learnt with real-world applications and work with the latest technologies. This will give them a distinct advantage in their future careers and help ensure they are job-ready when they graduate.
Apart from the team from Curtin Malaysia, the competition saw the participation of 19 other teams from 13 prominent public and private universities offering engineering studies in Malaysia. Judging by a high-level panel of judges comprising experts from Dassault Systemes and partner universities and industries involved two rounds – a preliminary round to shortlist the top seven finalists, followed by the final round.
The finals saw keen competition between finalists Curtin Malaysia, Nottingham University Malaysia, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia, UOW Malaysia KDU, Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS and UCSI University.
Robo Curtin’s 3D-printed lightweight drone, after extensive testing and fine-tuning with different payloads, performed extremely well, carrying a maximum payload for the farthest distance among the competitors. In recognition of their achievement, the team walked away with a RM5,000 cash prize and award certificates for placing first.
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