x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

‘Simple’ robot wins first prize at olympiad

The World Robot Olympiad-UAE attracted 180 students from across the country, battling it out in the elementary, junior high and high school categories.

World Robot Olympiad-UAE allows young people to develop their creativity, design and problem-solving skills. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National
World Robot Olympiad-UAE allows young people to develop their creativity, design and problem-solving skills. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National

ABU DHABI // School pupils from the American Community School in Abu Dhabi said the simplicity of their “The Engineers” robot was key to them clinching top spot at a national robotics competition on Friday.

The World Robot Olympiad-UAE drew 180 students from across the country, battling it out in the elementary, junior high and high-school categories at the Fairmont Hotel in the capital, but it was “The Engineers” robot that won through.

“We certainly deserve it, for sure,” said 16-year-old Daniel Bekai, a Year 10 pupil at ACS. “I think the main difference between our robot and the rest is its simplicity. The simpler the robot, the fewer chances for things to go wrong.”

Kuchul Jung, 16, agreed. “We thought simplicity was the key to success. We made a robot as simple as possible and just focused on one task. Because if you’re focusing on multiple tasks, it can’t go perfect every time and there is a possibility of getting no points at all.”

The American Community School’s 11 participating pupils, in four teams, had recently won gold and silver medals at the regional World Robot Olympiad.

Meanwhile, teams from Ajman who built “Expo” and “Al Salam School” robots came second and third, respectively.

The annual WRO-UAE national competition is a culmination of seven district competitions, which took place over the past two weeks. Each district has a team representing them, said Kerry Bailey, special adviser of e-learning at Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).

“What we’ve got is a group of very dedicated students working on a challenge,” he said. “It’s complex in terms of tasks the students have to get their robots to perform.”

The number of pupils competing in the Olympiad has been steadily growing, according to Adec, the national organiser. Only 29 teams took part in the challenge when it was introduced in 2008. Last year there were more than 400.

The winning team at the nationals earns a spot at the international tournament in Sochi, Russia, from November 21 to 23.

Mr Bailey, who is also a member of the judging panel, said the challenge required “a lot of creative problem-solving, creative thinking and programming skills to try to come up with the best solution”.

Mr Bailey said the performance of Emirati pupils across the country had improved through the years.

“Each year, we’ve taken full Emirati teams and we expect to do it this year,” he said.

Yousef Ali, 15, his 13-year-old brother Rashid and schoolmate Zayed Ghazi, 8, from the Rashid bin Humaid School, in Ajman, competed on Friday after winning first place in Ajman last month.

“As Emiratis, we are so proud to participate in this competition,” said Yousef. “I even spent weekends working on our robot, which we named ‘Astronaut’.”

Adec has plans to establish some after-school robotics clubs next school year, Mr Bailey said.

“We want to encourage more children to get into science and technology as part of the Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision,” he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae