Robots to the fore

Sunday November 25, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/11/25/education/12319550&sec=education

By LUWITA HANA RANDHAWA
educate@thestar.com.my

 

Moment of glory: (from left) Phileas, Zi Xuan and Natasha showing off the medals they won.Moment of glory: (from left) Phileas, Zi Xuan and Natasha showing off the medals they won.

WHILE most kids were kicking off their shoes and savouring the first weekend of the school holidays, a select group of budding young scientists were hard at work at the World Robot Olympiad (WRO) 2012 finals.

Held at Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre, the international robotics competition that began in 2004 saw 405 teams from 30 different countries taking part in its biggest competition yet.

Teams designed autonomous interactive robots, robots that can help people with their daily chores, and life-like robots that can sense, learn and adapt with minimal human intervention, all within the space of a weekend.

It was the first time that Kuala Lumpur hosted the event and the Malaysian contingent certainly did the country proud, scooping 12 of the 21 awards in the main categories.

There were two categories (Regular and Open) where awards were allocated based on age groups (Elementary, Junior High and Senior High).

Team SCB9 from SJK (C) Batu 9, Cheras, won the gold medal in the Elementary School Regular category. The category required contestants to programme robots to complete a series of tasks.

“I like this competition because it allows me to be creative,” said team leader Yeo Yong Jie, 12, adding that their robot was named after their school.

Happy that they finally struck gold with the win, teammate Liew Kai Young, 12, is “looking forward to celebrating as we’ve been participating in this competition for three years.”

Group member Tah Chi Bin, 12, added that he would like to be a scientist when he grows up.

The pupils’ coach Tan Cher Chor shared that though the boys argued, they are also smart.

“They know that arguing will not bring them to victory. So, they will stop arguing and start discussing solutions instead,” said Tan.

Ong Lai Choo, the boys’ science teacher who has seen them through the state and national competition levels, added that the trio showed the most potential in the school’s Robotics Club.

In the Open category, where contestants were required to create their own robotics solutions based on this year’s theme “Robots Connecting People”, it was Team Friendship Builders from SJK (C) Jalan Davidson, Kuala Lumpur, that scored first prize among the Elementary School teams.

Team leader Natasha Wong, 12, explained that teams were given 45 minutes and that their design was a friendship bridge built for two players.

“We have been training hard since March,” she said, adding that they worked after school, during weekends and even on public holidays.

Teammate Phileas Mah, 12, said being good friends before becoming teammates had helped their win.

“It’s ok if you don’t win, as long as you learn something from this competition. Team members should always help each other and ask questions,” said the youngest member of the group, Ooi Zi Xuan, 10.

Their coach cum teacher Adrian Ong is happy with their win stating that they were independent pupils and did not need much supervision for the competition.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong attended the closing ceremony and extended his praise to the tenacity, dedication and ingenuity that were shown by all the participating teams.

“The Olympiad has been the perfect platform for highlighting the importance of mastering scientific knowledge and technological competency,” he said. The next WRO will convene in Jakarta next year.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin met with the winning teams at Parliament on Monday.