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Top college teams to meet on robotics 'battlefield'


08-28-2016 04:04 BJT

Young engineers have been showcasing the best of robotics, at an annual college robotics competition in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province.

A total of 32 robot teams have been selected from over 200 colleges around the country. The event's highlight is a demonstration of the latest designs on a mock battlefield as students vie for the top prize.  Robot troops have been divided into infantry and air force.

The battlefield features rivers and bridges to test the limits of different robot designs. Student strategies will vary, with some robots designed for speed and others for durability. Our reporter Ge Yunfei follows one team to find out about their robotic dreams.

“The normal impression of us engineering students is that we’re geeks or nerds wearing shorts and slippers. It seems like we can never walk out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight. But we want to shine on stage,” said Wang Junyi, Xi'an Jiaotong University.

This is not a performance. It’s a high stakes battle and the robots are fighting tooth and nail.

Wang Junyi is the team leader of Xi’an Jiaotong University’s robotics team. Right now, they’re controlling the robots and drones in the arena.

It’s a scene of impeccable cooperation. But let’s turn the clock backwards to a time before the game.

Creating the perfect combat robot is not easy. Apart from getting the basic framework and core components right, the team has to design and refit their robots.

“It needs students from all related majors like mechanical automation, numerical control, and computer vision. The biggest difficulty is how to maintain the robot’s stability while enhancing its fire power and all terrain adaptability,” Wang said.

It’s not a picture of perfection yet. Their vehicles face a loss of control once in a while. Sounds like a minor problem, but it would prove to be fatal in a real game.

Technical errors are only a part of Wang’s concerns. He founded the team two years ago with only a handful of people under his leadership. But today, he brought 29 members to Shenzhen just for this competition.

“As the team leader, you have to carry all the responsibilities, like recruitment, team integrity, tech problems and even fund raising. We’ve spent over 45 thousand US dollars on those robots,” Wang said.

Finally, Wang’s team was able to solve the spinning problem, among others.

Think of it as a war game. Each team has six robots on the ground and a drone in the air. It has a hero robot which can fire bullets, and the drone can drop bombs from the air. The first team to destroy the opponent’s robots or headquarters will win.

Wang’s team just needs one more victory to guarantee the qualification into the knockout stages. After analyzing the videos of their rivals, they believe they’ve found the secret to winning.

“Our opponents are weak in team collaboration, so we’ll use the “Decapitation Strike”. We’ll find a chance to directly hit their headquarters and finish the game,” said Li Jingwei, Xi'an Jiaotong University.

The analysis paid off. Wang’s team took a nice and clean win in the first round.

But in the second round, two of their robots suddenly spun out of control, causing them to lose.

So now, their qualification depends on the results of other teams.

“We’re satisfied with our performance but sometimes luck just doesn’t stand on your side. It’s OK. If we lost, at least we can go home early and have a good rest,” said team member Liu Ziyi.

Wang Junyi is about to graduate. But he said he wants to leave a legacy for his members.

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