Metro Winnipeg: Nothing but net: U of M develops AI to compete in international robot competition

Qiuting Gong is toiling away on a robot at the University of Manitoba. The ‘bot can kick, throw a ping-pong ball, and wave, but she hopes one day to add rescuing to its repertoire.

Gong, 21, is an undergraduate student at Harbin Engineering University in China, who came to Manitoba through summer internship program Mitacs Globalink, which brings overseas students to Canada.

“This place is very good—it’s so large and I can do everything at once,” she said.

Right now, she’s working with professors at the University of Manitoba to program the “kid-size” humanoid robot to pick up and throw a ping-pong ball into a net at the international HuroCup Games at the end of the month, as part of FIRA Roboworld Cup 2017.

Students at the U of M have competed before, with about 60 to 70 per cent accuracy in the basketball event. Since Gong’s method uses a visual sensor, she hopes to reach 90 per cent accuracy.  

The end-goal is to eventually create humanoid robot firefighters that can enter burning buildings.

The program has also brought 30 other international students to the city for the summer. They are working at the U of M and University of Winnipeg.  

Research from those students includes development of a strategy to treat cognitive dysfunction in patients with Parkinson’s disease and investigating the educational and psychosocial needs of young refugees who have recently settled in Manitoba.

For this particular program, the expenses for the students are covered—they’re paid a biweekly stipend, similar to a graduate student, which is used toward living expenses and the logistics of bringing them here, said Iman Yahyaie, the director of business development at Mitacs.

The program is funded through the federal government and university partners throughout the country.

By: Jade Markus