Science

Robots, reef-builders and really fun science

Don’t just see the world’s first robot to target crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) – press the button and fire its injection arm yourself at the World Science Festival Brisbane (WSFB)!

Proven to autonomously detect and control the devastating starfish, QUT’s ground-breaking COTSbot will be put in the hands of the public in the QUT tent at the World Science Festival Brisbane’s Street Science! showcase, where science lovers can take turns firing its world-first pneumatic injector arm.

Creator and QUT field roboticist Dr Matthew Dunbabin said the WSFB would be COTSbot’s last large-scale public appearance before undergoing a reef-saving transformation.

“Soon we’ll be busy building the next generation of robo reef protector – RangerBot – a smaller, low-cost, vision-enabled multi-purpose marine management tool,” Dr Dunbabin said.

“We’re very excited to be working on this project with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. We see great potential in this versatile robot which, in the hands of reef communities, will transform the way we protect these critical environments against a wide range of dangers.”

COTSbot is one of 10 robots ready to play with the public visiting QUT’s Street Science tent – including a dancing ant-like hexapod, a snake-like device for squeezing into tiny spaces, a research drone and a pint-sized robot that’s keen to play Guess My Emotion with you.

Visitors can also play a virtual reality (VR) game and take home a DIY VR headset.

Next door in the Reefs Alive tent, QUT researchers will display the corals and marine creatures that built the Great Barrier Reef into the world’s largest living structure – including a touch tank for close encounters.

Meanwhile the Connect With Water tent will host QUT’s interactive, augmented reality sandbox designed to teach people about water catchments.

Science and Engineering Faculty Executive Dean Professor Gordon Wyeth said QUT’s engaging Street Science activities were both informative and fun.

“As a university, we prioritise helping people make real-world connections between science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and their own lives,” Professor Wyeth said.

“It can be hard for someone to understand new research and technologies if they’ve never encountered them before or don’t see the relevance to their world.

“That’s why we’re inviting Queensland to literally get their hands on our research.”

QUT experts also feature in the WSFB’s packed schedule of talks, workshops and stage performances, including:

  • Apprentice program: Roboticist’s Apprentice workshops with Professor Jonathan Roberts and Dr Jared Donovan.
  • Brain food breakfast: Biofabrication with Associate Professor Mia Woodruff.
  • Science gets social: Mathematics in Movies with Associate Professor Michael Milford.
  • Frankenstein anxiety: Robots and the Replacement of Ourselves with Professor Peter Corke.
  • Automated autos: The Future of Driverless Driving and Drones with Professors Belinda Bennett and Jonathan Roberts.
  • Water talks: The Inconvenient Truth of Bottled Water with Associate Professor Gary Mortimer.
  • Science and faith: A Comfortable Coexistence with Professor Peter Bruza.
  • Street science! Showcasing Science with PhD student Jesse Allen (free).
  • When science meets art: An Enduring Entanglement with Professor Judith McLean.

The WSFB runs Wednesday 22 March 2017 to Sunday 26 March 2017 at the South Bank cultural precinct.

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