Tilley's little robot earns high praise


DESPITE its name, Tom Tilley's humble little robot has been earning some high praise around the world.

The former Coomandook Area School student, who now holds a PhD in computer science, said he was thrilled to learn that his Suckerbot - a home made robot built from a Sony Playstation controller and a couple of Chupa Chups - had won its category at the African Robotic Network's $10 Robot Challenge.

"The aim of the competition was to try and build a robot for as close to US$10 as possible so that it would be cheap enough for students in Africa to be able to build their own," Dr Tilley said.

"I have been hacking joysticks and using them to connect things to computers since 2005 when my kids and I build a wooden dance mat out of some parts we rescued from hard rubbish."

"(The Suckerbot) is essentially a modified joystick with wheels and it has three modes - one where you can drive it around like a remote controlled car, another where if you hit the robot it will act offended and drive away, and a third where it can follow a black line on the ground."

Dr Tilley finished year 12 at Coomandook in 1986 before moving to Adelaide to work as a fax and mobile phone technician for eight years.

He relocated to the Gold Coast to study honours and a PhD at the University of Queensland after abandoning his job to study computer science at Adelaide University.

He now works as a lecturer at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he lives with his family.

Dr Tilley's Suckerbot was one of his first real forays into robotics and he has been thrilled by the reception it has received.

"This is the first time I've entered a competition like this and I'm thrilled to have won in my category," he said.

"The university where I teach is also very excited because there were 28 entries (in three different categories) from all over the world including from Harvard University and MIT (Massachusetts).