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IVE Students Live up to the Can-do Spirit in ROBOCON 2013
  • <p>The ROBOCON contest is not only a trial of technical knowledge; it is also an adversity test.</p>
  • <p>The ROBOCON contest is not only a trial of technical knowledge; it is also an adversity test.</p>
  • <p>The ROBOCON contest is not only a trial of technical knowledge; it is also an adversity test.</p>

The ROBOCON contest is not only a trial of technical knowledge; it is also an adversity test.

Jul 2013

IVE engineering students brought home a bronze trophy after this year’s ROBOCON Hong Kong contest – the second time that IVE won aprize in the inter-institutional robot-building competition since its first entry in 2010.

The award is the testimony of months of hard work students put in. They started working on the project as early as in last summer, and all of them faced a steep learning curve, as no one had experience or practical knowledge of building robots. All the16 participants, most of them major in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or intelligent building and automation, spent countless nights in the campus laboratory, which was modified to simulate the setting of the competition. Ten teams from five universities and IVE participated in ROBOCON 2013, and this year’s task was to produce two robots: one operated automatically; the other was controlled manually. Students soon met the first hurdle, as they had to master the skills of controlling robots by using software – something that they have never learnt in class. After numerous brainstorming sessions, the students decided to use two designs, but one was abandoned later because of dissatisfactory performance. They only managed to finalise the robot’s design in February, and everyone panicked about their progress. “At that time, a lot of videos appeared on the Internet, and the robots of other countries were very quick and finished the tasks flawlessly. So, all of us were scared,” said Tam Ho-fung, one of the participants.

When some of the team members were polishing the design, others were making components of the robot, including claws, extension arms, and projection machines. “The robots need different components for different tasks, and they have to coordinate with each other. It is impossible to produce all props by one person, so all of us have to cooperate and make sure the size of different component fits,” said Chu Wah-kin, another student.

The preparation works were not only confined to constructing the robots, the students also spent a lot of time learning the rules of the regulations. It turned out all these efforts, though seemingly trivial, were a key factor behind the IVE team’s outstanding performance. “Many teams had to start their design again because they did not comply with the rules,” said Ku Tsz-yui, another student participant.

The ROBOCON contest is not only a trial of technical knowledge; it is also an adversity test. Many of the students admitted that they had thought about giving up. It was physically straining, and they also face enormous pressure as they had to work against the clock, and meet the deadlines on time – no excuse was allowed from fellow participants and lecturers. But they met the greatest challenge on the competition day, as a staffer from another participating institution broke a claw of one of the robots by accident. The students did not succumb to the impulse of blaming or scolding the person, instead they hurried to repair the broken parts. In the end, the robot worked as if nothing had happened – and the students’ calmness won the praise of lecturers and the crew of RTHK, the organiser of ROBOCON Hong Kong Contest.

The supervisors were also impressed with the students’ improvement over the ten months. “They have sharpened their time management skills and learnt to become more disciplined,” said Lee Kin-fai, one of
the lecturers who worked with the students. Edmond Leung Wai-ho, another lecturer, appreciated the dedication of students. “During the test run on the day before the competition, we discovered that the laser sensors were not very stable. I wanted them to take a rest, but the students opted to work overnight to modify the computer programme.”

Besides the bronze prize, IVE also received the team spirit award. The team members, even they come from different academic programmes, worked together with only one goal in their mind. Their morale was boosted by the presence of many cheerers, and the majority of them were alumni who participated in the past ROBOCON contest. It was a day to remember – it was not simply about winning atrophy; it was also about living up to the can-do spirit of IVE.

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