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Pacific robot a world beater

The Pacific’s biggest university, the University of the South Pacific, has showed the world that the region is moving ahead in leaps and bounds as it was awarded the Tokyo Electron Award at the ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest, Robocon 2022.

The ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest is an Asian-Oceanian college robot competition, founded in 2002 by Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.

In the competition robots compete to finish a task within a set period of time. Four USP students outmanoeuvred big tech countries like China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia.

The team of four final year electrical and electronics engineering students Salveen Deo, Arshaque Ali, Shahil Kumar and Shahil Prasad entered the competition knowing the capabilities and limitations of their robot, but this did not dampen their spirit.

In a span of six months they had to build two prototypes from scratch.

The University of the South Pacific ABU Robocon 2022 team. Picture: USP

Robocon team leader Arshaque Ali said due to time constraints they could not order new parts from abroad.

“The major challenge in the Pacific is that we do not have access to high tech resources. Before we built the robots, we organised our ideas and planned how to execute them. It was difficult. So to counter that issue was to work with whatever components we already had,” said Mr Ali.

“USP had a lot of components piled up in the Robocon lab over the years. We used whatever was available in the lab to build the robots. The robot had some limitations but we made good progress.”

The Robocon competition replicates lagori, a traditional and ancient game that originated in the southern part of India around the 1900s. The game is between two teams, the seeker and the hitter.

The game starts by throwing a ball by the seeker to break a stone tower called lagori, while the seekers try to pile up the stones again, the hitter throws balls to interrupt them.

Similarly the shooter robot had to mount the lagori disks in order without any falling. USP’s shooter robot was able to complete the target at the first attempt which was quite a challenge for other teams.

The shooter robot, lagori disks and hitter robot that was made from scratch by the USP Robocon Team. Picture: Ana Civavonovono

Mr Ali said the pneumatic cylinder worked in their favour as opposed to the motors and rotating wheels used by other competitors.

Mechanical engineering senior lecturer Dr Sumesh Narayan commended the team’s hard work and sacrifice.

“Another challenge for us was the construction of the game field with the exact dimensions and specifications as required by the game rules. This also somehow hindered our performance as we didn’t have perfect game field conditions,” said Dr Narayan.

 

The team sometimes spent all night working on the robots and perfecting its moves, and this paid off.

The award proves that technological studies in the Pacific are as good as anywhere in the world.

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