Report on our Annual Conference, October 6th 2020

Our annual conference took place online this year, and we found it to be just as engaging and diverse as ever.  We were joined on Zoom by four keynote speakers, and about 100 students, staff and industry representatives. 

We kicked off with Keynote speaker Professor Metin Sitti from Max Planck institute who did a talk on soft-bodied small scale robotics that featured memorable robots modelled after baby jellyfish. 

Rich Walker from Shadow Robots gave an informative talk that discussed the evolution of his robotic hand company, and gave students lots of practical advice for their own business ventures.

Sara Bernardini showed us some of the projects underway at Royal Holloway, focusing on Robotics in Extreme Environments.  We saw robotics that perform maintenance on wind turbines, drones that can travel down boreholes and self-building platforms.

Our final Keynote speaker was Prof Maja Mataric from The University of Southern California who gave a very interesting talk titled Socially Assistive Robotics Right Now, which discussed the need for personalised embodied systems for in-home support of health, wellness, education and training.

As we were unable to have our usual post-conference dinner together, we had a virtual robot-themed cocktail/mocktail making party and contest.  Cocktails created during the  event included “We Love Python,” “Reinforcement Blending,”  and "Dear Supervisor, the hydraulic oil has a strange colour".  The winner was “An Robot Air Leth-Mhisg” which translates to “The Tipsy Robot” and was created by student Helmi Fraser. 

Students had created padlets to showcase their research activities online and sessions were included in the programme to allow the delegates to view these and to interact with the students either via a Zoom call or by leaving comments and questions for students on their individual Padlets.

Our industry representatives judged the student padlets and awarded the prize for best padlet to Nathan Western from the 2018 cohort.

Our keynote speakers kindly reviewed the case studies submitted by our students for inclusion in our Annual Review, and awarded the prize for best case study to Emily Rolley-Parnell, a student in the 2019 cohort. Both students received gift vouchers to the value of £200.

While we would have preferred to hold the event in person, we feel this year’s conference was another success thanks to the hard work and creativity of the staff and students at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics.