Znak Politechniki Warszawskiej

TechOcean – the special mission engineers

Phot: http://bit.ly/2hkAlTp

They are all students or former students of the Warsaw University of Technology. Together with the President of the Republic of Poland, they represented our country at the economic mission in Sweden, and their product, the Internet of Robots, came second in the international Robot Launch competition organised by Silicon Valley. As they rather courageously admit, nothing is impossible for them.

“Give us even the strangest issue or idea – for example having air fan cough if it detects polluting agents in the air – and we will gladly take up the challenge,” says Błażej Żyliński, the co-owner of TechOcean with a degree in aeronautics and space exploration at the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering.

The child is father to the man

Żyliński's first serious experiences came while he was in charge of a number of student undertakings at the Warsaw University of Technology. Specifically, he recalls the ERIS project whose purpose was not only to build another Martian rover but mostly to assemble a strong team geared for future participation and top places in robotics competitions. The most important objective, therefore, was educating an experienced squad of engineers specialising in robotics and auxiliary disciplines. “Working with the group was primarily a great way to make errors,” Błażej Żyliński says, “Because, when you make them in your own business, they are much more costly.”

The TechOcean start-up was established in May 2015. Armed with sizable experience and the right connections, fresh engineering graduates from the Warsaw University of Technology came up with the idea of a company involved in underwater robotics. In cooperation with the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, they built an underwater camera able to continuously operate in extremely difficult conditions for one year. Also, they designed a system to measure sea currents (with the needs of High-Performance Sailing in mind), used at the Rio de Janeiro event by the Norwegian sailing team, as well as a prototype Mini ROV underwater robot.

Ranking among the best

The TechOcean team consists of eight Warsaw University of Technology engineers from the following faculties: Mechanical Power and Aeronautical Engineering, Electronics and Information Systems, and Automotive and Construction Machinery Engineering.

It was from the last one that Michał Kacperczyk, a former student of mechatronics now delving into e-business at the Warsaw School of Economics, graduated. At the turn of November and December 2016, together with the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda and representatives of nine other start-ups, he took part in an economic mission in Sweden. There, he had the opportunity to showcase the underwater camera built by TechOcean.

Do it yourself

Even though the start-up is noted mainly for building underwater devices, the team is looking for fresh challenges. Its product, the Internet of Robots, came second in the Robot Launch 2016 competition organised by Silicon Valley Robotica, a group whose members are the most prestigious people in robotics coming from the eponymous area, and Robohub, a robotics portal.

The Internet of Robots is a system that enables fast and easy robot building. “We have noticed that there is a huge gap in this area as far as young people are concerned,” Michał Kacperczyk explains. “First, children play with LEGO blocks and glue scale models, but when they get really bitten by the building bug they find out that there is nothing allowing them to develop their skills. It's a huge step from playing with blocks to university level construction projects. We ourselves felt that the jump was too abrupt.

This is why we came up with the Internet of Robots, a system that grows with the user, allowing them to delve into mechanical engineering, electronics and programming. The user can easily and quickly check the practical value of their concepts and algorithms by constructing robots to take out the trash or clean windows.

The product is aimed mostly at young people from 12 to 18, but also at adults who are serious about robotics and want to test their solutions on ready-made modules.

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At a later stage of the project, TechOcean engineers plan to leverage the solutions utilised in the Internet of Robots in industry. This will free the robotics engineer from designing everything from the ground up – suitable modules can be ordered, assembled and programmed to produce a robot meeting the engineer's needs.

The lure of engineering

“We want robotics to become more popular in Poland,” Michał Kacperczyk emphasizes. “Of course, Poland also has its share of interesting solutions, but many of them are not used in practice.” “The mobile robots you can buy in a store are just a toy, not something robotics is about. A robot's job is to replace humans in certain more complex tasks,” Błażej Żyliński adds.

As students, they searched high and low for sponsors who would help them develop their ideas. Today, they are providing support to other WUT students – TechOcean has partnered with the Underwater Robotics Student Research Group that entered its underwater robot in the MATE 2016 competition.

And there is no slack in their efforts – a prototype Internet of Robots is to be ready by March 2017. What other surprises do the Warsaw University of Technology graduates working for TechOcean have in store for us? We are looking forward to news from the field.

Monika Bukowska

Office for Promotion and Information