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Aalto University students’ hedgehog robot wins first place in robot competition

Valentin Rainio and Sakari Harjunpää, students at the Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering, built the robot as part of the popular Electric Workshop course.
Sakari Harjunpää ja Valentin Rainio Sähköpajalla
Sakari Harjunpää (left) and Valentin Rainio with an early version of Robosiili at the Electrical Engineering Workshop. Photo: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University

Teams taking part in the Amazing Robots Competition at the Teknologia 22 fair were given the task of building a robot that does something interesting. There are not many rules in the competition, lest they inhibit the creativity and technical skills of the contestants. The competition is organised by TIES, an organisation dedicated to information technology and electronics, in cooperation with Mikrobitti magazine and The Finnish Fair Corporation.

Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering students Valentin Rainio and Sakari Harjunpää finished first in the competition with their Robosiili hedgehog robot, winning € 10,000 in prize money.

Valentin, who studies bioinformation technology, and Sakari, a student in the Advanced Energy Solutions master's programme, first met at the Electric Workshop course where the development work began. The popular course is a practical one where students design and build a functioning electrical device. The course requires no prior experience of electrical devices or coding, but as they both had experience in the subject, they wanted to take on a more challenging project. Electronics and programming had been hobbies for Valentin since he was a schoolboy. Meanwhile, as a master's student Sakari was skilled at 3D modelling techniques for 3D printing, and he had also become skilled in electronics.

‘From an early age I have always been interested in everything that works with electricity, and I was in an electronics club already before I could read’, Sakari says.

‘My father had often spoken of the challenges and complications of building robots that walk, which is why I came up with the idea of modelling a four-legged creature. However, as quite a few walking robots of different types had already been developed, I thought about the funny way that hedgehogs curl up into a ball and roll (at least in animations and games). Sakari agreed, and that is why we started to design the Robosiili’, Valentin explains.

This is what the ready Robosiili looks like!

The final appearance of the hedgehog changed considerably in the process.

    Robosiili
    Robosiili

    There were four students on the course, but Sakari and Valentin continued working on Robosiili for the competition this spring.

    What are the future plans for these technology students? Valentin only started his studies in the autumn, and his plans are still undecided, although working with robots has felt interesting.

    ‘My own dream job would probably involve research and development. I really like to create and develop new things and to create prototypes. Robots certainly are interesting, but electric cars, for example, have also been close to my heart’, Sakari says.

    Finishing second in the competition was another Aalto University team with their FireCorp robot, and in third place was a team of students from the University of Jyväskylä with their SmileBot.

    Heartfelt congratulations to all winners!

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