Robot running for Students’ Union president at U of A

WATCH ABOVE: An unconventional candidate is running in the U of A SU election. Emily Mertz has the story.

EDMONTON — He’s just a little guy, but he’s got a huge job: boosting participation in the Students’ Union (SU) election at the University of Alberta.

Omnibot — a battery-powered robot — is running to be SU president.

Under university policy, joke candidates are allowed to run in elections since they tend to raise awareness about the vote. They cannot actually win.

“The point we’re trying to get across is to get out the vote and to get people who normally aren’t interested in Student Union politics to pay attention to the elections and vote for their candidate of choice,” explained campaign manager Stefan Martynkiw.

“The campaign is exhausting,” Omnibot told Global News. “Thankfully, I have new batteries.”

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The robotic candidate — one of three campaigning to be president — is the brainchild of some computer engineering students. Last year, no one had signed up to run for the VP of Finance position in the Engineering Students Society election. So, to create some buzz, Omnibot gathered enough signatures to run. Over the course of one night, 10 other candidates registered to run.

In that vote, the robot finished second out of 11 candidates.

Martynkiw hopes the same kind of buzz will build leading up to the SU elections, which take place Wednesday and Thursday.

“Omnibot is raising awareness and participation in the election by going around to all the various student bodies and student club offices around campus and saying that an election is happening and Omnibot is running and other candidates are running too.”

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The robot is also very active on social media, tweeting videos and photos from the handle @omnibot4su.

“The typical response we get is, ‘This is fantastic.'”

The Omnibot team is apolitical and does not endorse any specific candidate or referendum question.