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Guinness World Records Fastest Robot Fish

BREED Robotics Fish Project, a student team sponsored by the Tam Wing Fan Innovation Wing and the Department of Mechanical Engineering from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) surpassed the previous Guinness World Record of 26.79 s, previously set by the Vayu Project for the “Fastest 50 m swim by a Robotic Fish” on October 10, 2020 with a time of 22.92 s at the Henry Fok Swimming Pool, Stanley Ho, beating it by a wide margin of 3.87 s. Compared with the world records set by human swimmers in long course swimming pools ratified by International Swimming Federation (FINA), the robotic fish surpasses the Men’s 50 m backstroke (24s) and 50 m breaststroke (25.9s), Women’s 50 m freestyle (23.67s), 50 m butterfly (24.43s) and the 50m backstroke (26.98s).

The field of robotics extends the reach of human capabilities, allowing us to explore the unknown and performing high-risk operations without endangering our own safety. However, current development of underwater robot fishes is still far from reproducing the high swimming speeds of natural fishes, which has undergone millions of years of optimization through evolution. For a robot fish to succeed in an open sea, it needs to be self-contained to complete long distance swims, and secondly it needs sufficient performance characteristics such as high speeds and manoeuvrability to manage the complex dynamics of the ocean.

The endeavour was successful due to the collaborative work effort between students and staff. Continuing the legacy of the previous Vayu project, Mr. Ng, Timothy, Mr. Ibnul Alam, and Dr. Zhong, Shen worked tirelessly on improving the previous robot fish design. With the help of the students from BREED Robotics, the group went through different iterations of the robot fish, and rigorously tested them to verify their concepts. “One of the biggest challenges to the project was working on the project during the Coronavirus outbreak. On the one hand, we have to keep moving forward on our goals and our objectives, on the other hand we have to ensure the safety of all our members” said Mr. Timothy Ng. The team persisted and found creative ways to mitigate the issues, specifically the lack of swimming pools as a testing venue. “If we can’t go to the swimming pool, why not bring the swimming pool to us?” said Mr. Ibnul Alam.

With that, the team erected a small swimming pool near the Yam Pak Lab to perform their tests, using slow-mo video capture to study the kinematics and locomotion of their robot fish designs, and to determine the speeds.

BREED Robotics (formerly known as the Vayu Project) is a young robotics group founded as a collaboration between faculty and students. The staff-student based robotics group emerged because of a fruitful discussion between Mr. Timothy NG, a graduate from HKU Mechanical Enginering and the lead research scientist of the group and Muhammad Saad Shahid Anwel (president of BREED). Dr. F. Zhang, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Department, is the supervisor of the group. Besides the two world records, the group also won first place for the Third Innoshow, held by the Tam Wing Fan, Innovation Wing, Faculty of Engineering, and first runner-up for the “6th Hong Kong University Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition” organized by the Hong Kong New Generation Cultural Association and HKSTP. Membership registration is open on a rolling-basis.

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