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Preparing for the next robotics challenge
Technical exchange between MIT & IVE
Mar 2013

Twenty IVE engineering students are currently putting theory into practice and literally getting the cogs turning in a bid to build the ultimate robots for the ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest (ABU Robocon). The annual competition invites teams from universities, colleges, and polytechnics in the Asia Pacific region to design and construct a set of robots under a specific theme. This year’s theme: The Green Planet sets contestants the challenge of creating machines that promote the environmental protection.

Technical exchange

This year the IVE Robotics Team has a chance to exchange technical skills with three MIT engineering students. The MIT students have flown from America to Hong Kong to present their technical knowhow, they also learn from the IVE students on their experiences in joining the world-class challenge. We caught up with them all in the lab to glimpse at the world of robot making and discover how their robotic friends are coming along.

Carrie LIANG, MIT student majoring in Mechanical Engineering explained, “ABU is by far the most complicated robotics competition I have ever seen—and I’ve been involved in several other contests myself. In the lab the IVE students are putting every aspect of theory they’ve learnt into practise. Their robots embody every component of my studies at MIT and are very advanced.”

Michael FARID, a classmate of Carrie in MIT, agreed, “I’m just impressed by how big everything is: the fact that students here have a whole workshop dedicated to designing and constructing robots as well as an abundance of resources to assist them with their studies.”

From paper to lab

Students from IVE echoed this enthusiasm. Chris YEUNG explained, “In our studies, we usually just calculate things and write them down on paper, but this challenge allows us to try our hand at robotic operations and actually put our ideas into action.”

Teammate Kin LAM added, “What we’re doing in the robotic competition is actually very similar to the type of work done by qualified engineers—solving engineering problems. The project involves a variety of tasks that need to be accomplished in a tight timeframe and it makes me feel like I am a real engineer.”

Communication key

Gaining insight into what life is like for the three MIT students has also proven to be invaluable to the IVE team members. Chris explained, “It’s great to have international students here to exchange their ideas with us in writing the programmes and discussing the mechanics. The way they do things is very different and we can learn from them.”

Maintaining strong communication between teammates appears to be another thing that IVE students have learnt from their American counterparts. Timothy YANG, MIT student majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science remarked, “With the IVE team divided into those in charge of mechanics and those responsible for control, it’s really important that teammates integrate and combine concepts in the run up to the competition.”

IVE student Amos LAU agreed, “The competition allows students from different higher diploma programmes to work together closely. Those from the electrical engineering programme focus on the programming and controlling the robots and those from the mechanical engineering programme work on their structures. Therefore, communication is critical during the preparation phase.”

The final step

So how does this combined knowledge and passion manifest in to a robotic form? Kin explained, “This year’s competition will involve operating the robots in a simulated ‘Earth and Moon’ environment. So we’ve created a robot which not only automatically picks and sows leaves on the Earth’s surface, but can also project buds towards the Moon. A key mission of our project is to help promote sustainable plantation and afforestation.”

Every mission begins with a small step and it only seems a matter of time before the team at IVE complete theirs and make another giant leap forward in robotics.

Exchange Activities
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Engineering Discipline