Following is the interview with the team of Myanmar students who achieved sixth out of 163 teams at 1st Global Robotics Competition.
By Nandar Win and Win Win Maw
One hundred sixty three teams from 157 countries competed in the First Global Challenge 2017 Robotic Competition held in Washington D.C. from 16 to 18 July, with the Myanmar team finishing sixth in the competition. Six Myanmar students, Maung Wai Yar Aung from Yangon Technological University (YTU), Ma Yuzana Win from the University of Information Technology (UIT), Maung Wai Yan Htun from Goethe Institute, Thailand, Ma May Pyae Sone Kyaw from UIT, Maung Phone Thiha Kyaw from YTU and Maung Kyaw Za Zaw from ILBC were interviewed about participating in the competition.
Q. Tell us about the competition and the (host) country.
A. Yuzana Win: We participated in the First Global Challenge 2017 Robotic Competition held in Washington D.C., with 163 teams from 157 countries competing in it. All teams needed to make their own robots in their countries to competed in it. We stood sixth.
Q. Our team consisted of different schools. How was it organized? Which organization made the selection?
A. Yuzana Win: Phandeeyar: Myanmar Innovation Lab announced the competition by posting it on notice boards at technology universities, such as YTU and UIT, and conducted talks to apply for participating in the competition. Then they conducted interviews. From this, they formed a team with selected students.
Q. What were the preparations that were made so our team could compete in the competition?
A. Wai Yan Htun: Phandeeyar selected us, and seven students were formed into a team. About one to two months was given to construct the robot. A robot kit box was sent from the U.S. to build the robot. The materials in the robot kit box were something new for our team members. In order to familiarize ourselves with the materials, we started out by constructing a small robot. But the (robot kit box) materials were unfamiliar for us and we had to spend quite some time reading about it in the Guide Book included, as well as online. We tried building a small robot repeatedly, before we built the actual robot (to compete).
A. Wai Yar Aung: We divided the team into hardware and software groups. I’m in the hardware part. We (hardware members) constructed and tested a small robot first. Then we discussed what would be the most effective way to construct the robot for competition, and how to compete in accordance to the game design. After repeated constructions, we ended up with this one. Once we had the final design, we repeatedly tested it to ensure that it operated in accordance with the competition rules. At each stages of constructing the robot, we discussed and coordinated with the software members.
Q. Explain about the part played by software members.
A. Phone Thiha Kyaw: Once the hardware part was completed, we (software members) worked together with the hardware members. The software part was divided into Java and Block Programming. We competed with Block Programming. We made careful preparations on the electronic portion. The requirement of the software portion was also coordinated and prepared with the hardware portion. We repeatedly practiced with the robot here. After that, we went to Washington D.C. There, we were given two days to prepare. During that period, we practiced with the robot and learned of more requirements. We repaired our errors during those two days.
Q. Explain about the actual competition.
A. Kyaw Za Zaw: All 163 teams were provided with the same robot parts. Each team constructed their robot using their own thoughts and processes. At the competition, we found 163 different robots made by the 163 teams. We competed under the theme of acquiring clean water by identifying and separating clean and unclean waters. The game (competition) was constructed by designating clean water as blue balls and unclean waters as orange balls. The blue balls were to be collected and put into water reserves, while the orange balls were collected and put into a laboratory for testing. Our robot was constructed for this game. Our robot was able to collect all the blue and orange balls. The robot was also able to classify and separate the blue and orange balls. According to the rules of the game, the area was flooded at the end, so our robots would no longer be on the ground, but needed to hang onto bars placed at the side. If the robot could do all these activities, we received full marks.
A. Phone Thiha Kyaw: It was a two days competition. On the first day, we competed three times. We won two and lost one. The next day, we competed three times and won all. We received many points and we stood sixth among 163 competing teams.
Q. Let us know more about the experience obtained from the competition.
A. Kyaw Za Zaw: Some made robots to throw the balls, while others made robots to carry the balls. We gained much experience from observing how robots were made. The most exciting part of the competition was 20 minutes before the game started when we discussed the strategy with our allied teams. We also reviewed the weaknesses and strengths of each of the robots.
We took part in six games. I controlled and drove the robot myself. Five minutes before the start of the game, the six teams, three from one side and three from another side, took their positions. This was when the excitement was at its peak. During the competition, our robot lost its connection and the Technical Team helped us sort out the problem. We lost some points due to these sorts of errors.
Q. Which countries were awarded prizes?
A. Wai Yan Htun: After completing in four games, we were at the top standing as number one. But in the last two games, others overtook our points and we ended up in sixth place. The five teams above our team were European teams. Myanmar is in sixth place, but we stand at first among Asian teams.
Q. What is your advice to brothers and sisters who will compete in next year’s competition?
A. Wai Yan Htun: By competing for the first time, we found many new and strange things. We are sharing this so that those who compete next year will have less difficulty. The main thing I want to say is that we are not lagging behind in ASEAN. We are number one in Asia. It is with this moral force that we want to request our brothers and sisters to raise Myanmar’s flag next year.
I am not a handicapped person, as I can see and hear. But I saw two participants from a country who were deaf. They built their robot using sign languages. I found this admirable and respectable. Some who came to compete from countries like Syria and Afghanistan, where wars were raging, won prizes. So don’t give any reason and say we could not do this or that. Look at people like these. They are the heroes of this competition. They compete with others, even though they were facing many difficulties. This is the good experience I gained from this competition and the respect I had (for the competitors).
A: Yuzana Win: Compared with males, females sometime think that they are unable to do as much as males do and lack confidence. Don’t think like that. Females can do whatever the male does, in any sector, equally. Study hard on newly developed technologies and if you have the will, success can be achieved.
Q. What are the benefits for yourself, your school and your country by achieving success?
A. May Pyae Sone Kyaw: There are many benefits received from the competition. I’m proud to be able to hoist our country’s flag at sixth place. This is something to be proud for the country. It is something that other students can feel proud and imitate. This is my first experience. Before this, I didn’t have the confidence that I could do this. Now I have much confidence. This will be a strength on which I will base my future conduct.
Sixty per cent of the members of the competing teams were women. Some were led by women. The Afghanistan team is a women’s team. I want women in our country to have the confidence that they can do this.