10 students from Cambodia’s Liger Learning Centre embarked on an exploration to build a robot in a bid to become the first ever Cambodian team to be entered in the VEX Robotics Competition held in Taiwan.
VEX is one of the world’s fastest growing robotics competitions which pits student robot inventions against one another in a game-based engineering setting.
The game the Liger team took part in had the following setup and mechanics:
- Two alliances of two teams each would compete against one another
- Each alliance would seek to move objects (stars and cubes) to the opposing territory using the robot
- Two zones, Near and Far, would be setup.
- Points are awarded based on where the objects land in the opposing territory
- At the end of a fixed time frame, the scores are tabulated
- For bonus points, teams would need to guide their robot to do a “pull up” at the pole fixed at the corner of each arena
Working with limited resources and within a 7 week time frame, the team split themselves into three departments to handle the work that was to come.
The first department was programming – the ones in charge of the coding for the project. The second, mechanics – the group in charge of building the actual robot. Finally, fundraising – the team in charge of seeking out donors and sponsors to fly 10 students to Taiwan.
To find out more about the capabilities and processes in building the robot for the competition, Geeks in Cambodia sat down with all 10 members of the team and their facilitator, Girach Waseem.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, language and flow. The answers are categorized according to the teams they represent – fundraising (FR), mechanics (MC) and programming (PG), their facilitator, Waseem (W) or the Liger students as a whole (Liger).
Why did Liger decide to engage in this project?
W: At Liger, this specific exploration was pretty much a continuation of a previous robotics programme where the students were exposed to Lego-based robots. So this was an extension to help them get more advanced experience. After all, it’s a really fun and interactive way for them to learn about workable designs as well as coding skills.
Our goal was that with this experience, the students would be able to apply what they learn to other areas as well. For example, in terms of coding, they could apply the same coding skills to other relevant areas and develop solutions not just directly related to a robot.
The nature of the competition also helps us to instill in the students a healthy spirit of competition while sharpening their problem solving and communication skills which are really important today.
What was the process of developing the robot?
MC: The process of developing the robot heavily involved the programming and mechanic teams. As the mechanic team, we took care of the assembling of the robot, making sure the parts were working and ensuring that we stayed within the competition restrictions.
PG: For us, we looked at the coding of the robot. In the beginning, everything was new for us so we had to research the coding language that we were going to use but essentially, the coding took place in two stages – the remote control and the autonomous period.
The autonomous period is the code that directs the robot to carry out certain functions on its own, which is a competition requirement. As for the remote control, we programme the joystick to interact with the robot to do what we would like it to do.
What were some of the challenges you had to overcome when you embarked on this project?
Liger: One challenge that all of us had to face was learning the coding languages and building up the robot from scratch within a really short time frame of less than two months. We also had to compete against teams who had more advanced facilities and began their preparations for the competition almost a full year in advance.
On top of that, each of the three groups had different challenges that we had to overcome in order to contribute to the fundamental success of the whole exploration.
PG: For us programmers, having to learn the programming language (C programming), knowing how to code and then having to learn how to implement that into an actual robot system, was definitely something we had to adapt to.
MC: As mechanics, keeping within the size constraints of the competition while building up the robot to the capacity we needed it to be at in order to be competitive was indeed a big challenge. Add to that the lack of resources that we have in Cambodia in terms of the robots parts, it posed some difficulties through the development process.
FR: For the fundraising team, seeking out donors and sponsors, sending out numerous emails and being able to face rejection or no-replies from the emails that were sent out was our biggest challenge.
After overcoming these challenges, what are the key features of the final robot?
Liger: To take part in the game, the robot needs to be able to grab an object, raise it over 45 centimeters and drop the object in the opponents’ territory. With that, we designed our robot to have an efficient grab and drop system, while having the ability to raise the object way above the 45 centimeter target.
We also designed the arms of the robot to be mobile but yet sturdy, so as to be able to block the opponents’ objects from entering our territory. As the game requires us to try and throw objects (either stars or boxes) into the opponent’s territory, we tried to create a higher level of efficiency by allowing our robot to be able to carry three stars in one load as well.
Seeing the students combine skills in coding and product design through this Liger exploration makes us at Geeks in Cambodia really excited as to the potential in the Kingdom for yet more technological advancements.
To find out how the Liger team faired at VEX, stay locked to Geeks in Cambodia tomorrow!