x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Abu Dhabi opens doors to World Robot Olympiad for special needs children

The 8th World Robot Olympiad begins on Saturday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

ABU DHABI //Children with special needs will get a chance to take part in the World Robot Olympiad that starts in the capital on Saturday.

More than 1,500 teenagers from 35 countries will meet to show off their robotic creations at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre for the eighth World Robot Olympiad (WRO).

"There has never been a category to encourage children with special needs in this competition before," said Najla Al Raway, a project manager in the Strategic Planning Department of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec). "We wanted them to participate so that they have equal opportunities to prove their skills. If they have the will, nothing can stop them."

Seven teams from different special needs centres across the UAE will be competing.

The Zayed Higher Organisation has three teams participating in the special needs category. Mohammed Ahmed Al Suraimi, coach and electronic instructor at the organisation, said it is a good learning platform for children with disabilities.

"We have two groups of pupils with intellectual disorders and a team of deaf children taking part," said Mr Al Suraimi. "The deaf pupils are very excited because they like the competition where they can show their ability. It opens their imagination and strengthens their vocational skills."

The competition asks pupils to apply their science, engineering and mathematics skills to build robots that can solve problems.

Participating countries hold contests throughout the year to choose which teams will progress to the final.

"The national round of the competition was much larger this year," said Ms Al Raway. "In 2009, only 31 UAE teams participated, but this year we had 600 teams in the initial rounds."

In the regular categories, more than 96 teams from the UAE will be competing.

Humaid Al Aamri, 17, from the Institute of Applied Technology in Ras Al Khaimah, has developed a robot that can clean windows with his teammates. "The idea came to us after reading about an accident where a man fell from a high rise while cleaning windows in 2008," he said.

"We began brainstorming and came up with a machine that does not require much human interaction, reuses water and can clean two windows at a time.

"We developed several prototypes before our final version but working together was a great learning experience."

Yasmeen Abu Kheil, his coach, said they spent several hours and found inspiration from various outlets to create the robot. "They spoke to people, other competitors, watched YouTube videos and applied all their school education to build it," he said. "They found a problem and figured out the solution in an uncomplicated manner, which has improved their maths and science skills as well."