Truth be told, the fish are metal, the sand is wooden, but the Bluetooth click inside is real. Built by students for the annual Eurobot competition.
When participating at Eurobot, the student robot design competition, you have to adhere to certain constraints.
Most obvious, the budget is limited. Also, the competition regulations impose a specified floor footprint that your two robots must not exceed.
But perhaps the biggest constraint is another footprint - the one that has to be carved in a calendar out of a busy schedule.
Nemanja, Stevan and Slobodan from The Belgrade School of Electrical Engineering (ETF, for its acronym in Serbian) visited us the other day to show their robot and the robot sidekick (always two there are at Eurobot).
The robots are designed to catch metal fish, to move around wooden blocks that represent sand, and to pop open an umbrella (unfortunately this was before Text To Speech click was released otherwise the robot could have been able to sing in the rain like Gene Kelly).
The two robots have been designed and built in four months. It's not possible to start earlier because the competitors have to wait for the organizers to announce propositions (the layout of the obstacle course and the specified tasks each robot has to perform).
All the while, Nemanja, Stevan and Slobodan were studying for their Master's degrees and holding steady jobs. They also had to sleep. So the question that has to be asked here is, was it worth it?
Absolutely, the team tells us. The opportunity to hang out with likeminded robot-builders alone was worth the ordeal. Also, they tell us, building a complex cooperative project from start to finish is not necessarily something you do during your studies. It's a nice way to wrap up years of formal education.
For 2017, the next generation of students will represent the colors of ETF while Nemanja, Stevan and Slobodan are already set to take jobs abroad.