x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Arabian Knights’ true tale of Scheherazade in US robot contest

Pupils from Manor Hall International School built a 1.52-metre robot from scratch to compete in the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition.

The Arabian Knights team put a lot of time into work in the lab, at Manor Hall International School in Al Ain, to make their robot. Pawan Singh / The National
The Arabian Knights team put a lot of time into work in the lab, at Manor Hall International School in Al Ain, to make their robot. Pawan Singh / The National

Al Ain pupils who built the creation travel to Colorado to compete

AL AIN // They’re called the Arabian Knights, and their weapon is a 1.5-metre tall robot named Scheherazade.

And the pupils from Manor Hall International School who built it from scratch are flying to the US tomorrow to unleash their creation.

They are taking part in the first Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition in Colorado.

“I’m just so excited,” said Abeer Najam, a 16-year-old US-born Emirati. Abeer is one of the 22 pupils on the robotics team, most of whom had no experience of robots, who spent six weeks designing, engineering, programming and painting what would become the UAE’s first entry in the competition.

“We’re one of 3,000 teams that are competing this year,” said science and robotics teacher Kelsey Margulieux, 28, originally from the US.

“There are teams from 38 countries. We’re the only team from the UAE. All told, there’s about 280,000 students around the world that do this.”

When she first signed up for the class out of curiosity, Abeer admits she “had no interest in robotics”.

I was scared to even just touch the tools, she said. “When we came in, we had no clue whatsoever how to use any of the tools or what to do and we had six weeks to build a robot. Ms Kelsey was always like, ‘you can do it, you can do it’.

“She’s so positive. We all learnt how to use amazing tools. We got to use a drill, which I thought I would never touch in my whole life.”

The pupils were challenged to build a robot that could not only challenge other robots, but help them as well.

That is because during the competition, the robots and their human handlers take part in a game called Aerial Assist. To play, three schools have to join forces as three robots are needed on each team.

To win, the pupils have to remotely control their machines to score as many points as possible during a two and a half-minute match.

The robots can score by rolling a ball into a ground-level goal, or by pitching a ball through a higher goal for more points.

Teams who demonstrate cooperation between their three robots earn bonus points.

The Arabian Knights team opted to build a team player. “Our robot was designed mostly to assist others in passing,” said Zachary Smith, a 17-year-old American who will control Scheherazade during the matches.

“We didn’t design it to shoot high balls, but we can score on the low goals and we can definitely pick the ball up and pass it to other robots.”

The right and left side of its body is shaped like a camel.

The pupils also emblazoned the UAE flag on the right sleeve of their team T-shirt, a Spirit of the Union graphic on the back and a camel team logo on the front.

“We wanted our robot to reflect that we’re from the UAE and since there are a lot of camels here, we decided to go with camels,” said Zachary.

Ms Kelsey is confident the 11 pupils travelling to the US for the competition will make the UAE proud. She is hopeful they can be among the six teams to move on to the FTC World Championship being held later this month in Missouri.

“I am just so proud of them,” Ms Kelsey said.

“They’ve built a really awesome robot.”

To follow the Arabian Knights’ progress during the April 3 to 5 competition, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FRC4928.

rpennington@thenational.ae