R@B members trying out Arduino

In Spring 2018, Robotics@Berkeley will sponsor several robotics design projects run by undergraduates at UC Berkeley. Teams of 4-5 students will develop club-funded, scalable devices that can be used to lessen the suffering and increase the opportunities for prosperity of those most afflicted by (1) natural disasters and (2) wartime conflict in line with the club's theme for 2018: humanitarian robotics. Robotics@Berkeley aims to foster a supportive environment for students to develop as roboticists and create a positive impact with their projects.

Project teams will be offered multiple different forms of project advising and resources. All teams will meet with a Robotics@Berkeley officer or graduate student adviser once teams are formed to discuss their design plan and budgeting. In February, R@B will host a series of workshops on introductory robotics topics that will be useful for most, if not all, of the participating teams. Teams are encouraged to use the Arduino or Raspberry Pi platforms; a key theme in all R@B projects is how to find solutions when prototyping with these platforms both online and through different resources at UC Berkeley. In addition to workshops, R@B will host formal and informal events where participants can get one-on-one robot advice from more experienced roboticists.

Teams will consist of 4-5 UC Berkeley students. All participants must register as Robotics@Berkeley members before their team is approved. They will be given an initial grant of $400 for their project materials, and may make use of any outside sources for parts and materials.

We live in the most technologically advanced time in history -- people in wealthy areas such as the San Francisco bay area benefit from excesses like smart toilets and artificially intelligent chatbots -- but more than 3 billion people in the world live in poverty. Thousands of children die daily from starvation, millions do not have access to life-saving vaccines, and 1 in 4 people live without electricity. In 2017, there was an estimated 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide due to humanitarian crises in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and other countries. Technological advancements that define the lives of many living in well-off regions of the world have not reached those who would benefit from them the most.

The world needs people who have the technical expertise, entrepreneurial drive, situational know-how, and practical connections required to bring advanced technology to the parts of the world that could greatly benefit from specialized machines and software. Robotics@Berkeley is uniquely situated to do this as a result of its members’ domain knowledge in automation technology, the entrepreneurial environment at UC Berkeley, and the available connections and support systems on its campus.

For the above reasons, the Spring 2018 focus for Robotics@Berkeley is Humanitarian Robotics -- specifically, how automated technology can be used to lessen the suffering and increase the opportunities for prosperity of those most afflicted by (1) natural disasters and (2) wartime conflicts. To further concentrate the efforts of the club, the following three opportunities for automation technology are to be emphasized: damage assessment, resource delivery, and economic stability.

The club aims accompanying this focus of Humanitarian Robotics are two-fold: first, to develop individuals with the know-how to design and create robots that can be used to positively help those affected by natural disasters and wartime conflict, and second, to empower those individuals to implement their ideas in the real world by providing connections and institutional support.

Team at Internet of Things hack-a-thon in a heated discussion wire holding a spool of wire.

Focus 1: Damage Assessment

Natural disasters and wartime conflicts can both devastate the infrastructure upon which people survive. It is important for search-and-rescue teams to understand the damage inflicted on certain areas and structures so they can safely and effectively locate people and resources affected by such disasters. How can automated technology, such as aerial or ground robots, be used to assist groups that survey damage inflicted during natural disasters and wartime conflict?

Focus 2: Resource Delivery

It can often be difficult to reach impoverished areas of the world when they need supplies following a natural or manmade disaster. How can automated technology help deliver supplies, such as medical packages, food, and clean water, to people whose infrastructure is devastated?

Focus 3: Economic Stability

Humanitarian crises are often caused by a single event, such as an earthquake, but their effects can be felt for years or even decades due to the far-reaching economic effects of the crises. How can automated technology be used to help people gain or regain economic stability after experiencing such a crisis? For example, some organizations such as Heifer International support families by providing them with a farm animal that provides a means for food and income; can a similar approach be used with robots instead of farm animals?

Major Event Schedule

Date Event
1/24-1/27 Club Meet-and-Greets
2/2 Project Launch Night
2/2-2/9 Initial Project Ideation
2/9 - 4/20 Project Work
4/20 Semester Pitch Night

Do I need to have robotics experience to participate?

Experience is useful but not required. Our series of workshops and work sessions are designed so that participants with little or no robotics experience can learn the skills necessary to meaningfully contribute to their project. It is more important that each team is balanced with at least one member who is comfortable in each of these domain areas: mechanical design, electronics, and coding.

Who can participate?

This competition is exclusively for undergraduates registered at UC Berkeley for Spring 2018 and visiting students studying at UC Berkeley in Spring 2018. We aim to accept a diverse group of students, and encourage everyone interested to apply regardless of your background.

How do I apply to be on a project?

You can apply to participate in projects by coming to one of the R@B meet-and-greets on 1/24, 1/25, or 1/27. You must apply individually, regardless of whether you have someone in mind you'd like to work with. Each team will have its own application process.

How much will the project cost?

Thanks to our generous sponsors, these projects are funded by Robotics@Berkeley and free for participants. Each team will receive an initial $400 grant. We encourage all teams to also seek additional outside funding via donations, sponsorships, and/or crowdfunding.

How will the teams be formed?

Students must apply individually, and teams will be formed organically during the mixers after acceptances are sent out. We will also hold a student mixer during our infosession on Jan 26th (prior to application decisions are released) so you can meet other students interested in the competition. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and join our email list for other networking opportunities!

What is the time commitment?

We expect you to spend at least 5 hours each week working on the project with your team. However, some weeks will require fewer or more hours. If you think you cannot fulfill this time commitment, these projects may not be for you.

What can I build?

Your team will choose one of the three project area focuses listed above and build an application/device that best addresses the issue. You may build anything so long as it is legal, is within budget, and falls within the domain of automation technology.

Where will I get parts for my design?

Robotics@Berkeley currently has an extensive library of Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, motors, Wi-Fi modules, and other parts that participants can borrow from for the semester. We provide each team with an additional $400 to purchase more specific parts elsewhere if they need them.

Why can't I access the interest form?

The form can only be accessed using berkeley.edu accounts. If you do not have a Berkeley account, you cannot access the application. Contact us if you are a Berkeley student and have difficulty accessing the form.

What if I have a question not answered in the FAQ?

Email us at

leadership@rab.berkeley.edu