Our Own High School from Warqaa and the Dubai Modern High School were named champions in the UAE National Robotics Olympiad that took place recently at the Higher Colleges of Technology, Sharjah Men's College.
Hosted by Edutech Middle East, a leading provider of technology-enabled solutions, the contest invited students from all ages and schools to work as a team to build a functional robot that can perform basic tasks.
Participants were evaluated based on their innovative, creative and technological abilities. The competition received 35 entries and the two winning teams scored an all-expense paid trip to the World Robotics Olympiad in Taiwan where they will compete for the international robotics championship.
In the Open category, participants of all ages competed under the theme 'Civil Safety, Security, and Emergency Response', where they narrated a science fiction story through their robots.
In the Regular category, high school students demonstrated the manoeuvrability of their robots under the theme 'Robo Ambulating Rally,' where participants' robots had to move along a marked track while following traffic instructions and overcoming obstacles. In either case, students had to use their strategic and innovative skills to create an operational robot.
"This event gave students a chance to express their teamwork, presentation, management and programming skills through hands-on learning," said Karim Asf, CEO of Edutech. "This is a very rare opportunity that students don't often experience in schools and in textbooks."
Another win for the team
Our Own High School of Al Warqaa, last year's winner, was triumphant again in this year's competition in the Regular category.
"When we heard that our school stood first place last year and the team got to travel to China we were enthusiastic about participating and winning this one again for our school and our country," said Karthik A.S.K., one of the winning team's student members. "We got a lot of support from our school, especially from our physics teacher Ramarao K.V. who was always there throughout the whole process."
Ramarao K.V., expressed great pride and delight with the students' achievements.
"It was incredible to see the students' enthusiasm through such a challenging momentum," K.V. said. "They took the challenge, working beyond the traditional study hours of a student, and have now placed us a winning school the second year in a row. They have even inspired an increasing number of our other students to follow in their footsteps. It was truly an elating experience."
Students claimed that the interest and "freshness" of the subject is what kept their engines going.
"The field of robotics is new and something that has never been focused on before by schools here," said Shyam Rengarajan, Our Own High School student. "We have learned so much from this experience, and I'm sure we will continue to learn more. That's what kept our interest flowing."
Giving them the motivation to go that extra mile, the school proved supportive at a time of need. Students claimed that their school support was an indubitably essential factor that allowed the team achieve their victory.
"Our school was incredibly helpful," added Rishabh Kabra, another student winner from the Our Own High School team. "There were times where certain parts of our robot weren't functioning the way we wanted them to, and it reached a point where even our school carpenter would pitch in and help."
A future with a spark
Students are excited about their trip to Taiwan where they will compete for the international award in the World Robotics Olympiad expected in November and have plans to further their education in engineering.
"This is truly a rewarding experience and has motivated me to continue my studies in engineering," said Akash Jagdish Vaswani, DMHS student. "I hope to study software engineering. After all, without programming, hardware is of no use."
This new field of 'mechatronics,' the term given to the study of robotics, has truly grabbed the attention of many aspiring students.
"It's just a fascinating field. It's a like a magnet, you're automatically drawn to it," said Kabra. "I doubt there is anyone who wouldn't find it even slightly interesting."
The UAE scored 14th out of 60 entries at the World Robotics Olympiad last year and a total of 21 countries are expected to participate in the world finals in Taiwan, a 24 per cent increase over the World Robotics Olympiad in 2006.
Another batch of champions
Dubai Modern High School (DMHS) defeated the other teams in the Open category. The team expressed exhilaration with their success, highlighting the effort it took to make such an achievement.
"It took us two days just deciding what kind of robot we wanted to build," said Chiraag Manjkisani. "Then, it took us four straight days building the robot and we did not complete it until the day of the competition. We worked straight through the nights as we knew it was the only way we could finish on time."
Despite their hard efforts, students admitted to a feeling of intimidation at the commencement of the competition.
"When you enter the room and you see all these flashy robots, you can't help but to feel a bit intimidated," student Rahul Menon said. "But in the end, you realise it's not just about the flashiness, and that those long hours of hard work actually pay off."