This Robot Could Save The Great Barrier Reef (And Now You Can Have A Turn)

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COTSbot, developed by the Queensland University of Technology, is the world's first robot to target crown-of-thorns starfish. And now, for the first time, the general public will have a chance to fire its injector arm.

This Robot Could Save The Great Barrier Reef

The world's first robot built to control the devastating crown-of-thorns starfish could be transformed into a versatile "robo reef" protector -- thanks to the Australian Google Impact Challenge.

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Proven to autonomously detect and control the devastating starfish, COTSbot will be in the QUT tent at the World Science Festival Brisbane's Street Science showcase this weekend. Creator and QUT field roboticist Dr Matthew Dunbabin said the WSFB would be COTSbot's last large-scale public appearance before undergoing a reef-saving transformation.

"Over the next few months we'll be busy building the next generation of robo reef protector – RangerBot – a smaller, low-cost, vision-enabled multi-purpose marine management tool," Dr Dunbabin said. "We're very excited to be working on this project with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. We see great potential in this versatile robot which, in the hands of reef communities, will transform the way we protect these critical environments against a wide range of dangers."

COTSbot is one of 10 robots ready to play with the public visiting QUT's Street Science tent – including a dancing ant-like hexapod, a snake-like device for squeezing into tiny spaces, a research drone and a pint-sized robot that's keen to play "Guess My Emotion" with you. You can also play a VR game and take home a DIY VR headset.

Next door in the Reefs Alive tent, QUT researcher Brett Lewis will display the corals and marine creatures that built the Great Barrier Reef into the world's largest living structure – including a touch tank for close encounters. Meanwhile the Connect With Water tent will host QUT's interactive, augmented reality sandbox designed to teach people about water catchments.

Science and Engineering Faculty Executive Dean Professor Gordon Wyeth said QUT's engaging Street Science activities were both informative and fun.

"As a university, we prioritise helping people make real-world connections between science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and their own lives," Professor Wyeth said. "It can be hard for someone to understand new research and technologies if they've never encountered them before or don't see the relevance to their world. That's why we're inviting Queensland to literally get their hands on our research."

You can find out more about the World Science Festival here.

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