Future Robot Engineers of HYU
Toward the Goal Line
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The 2016 International Robot Challenge (IRC) was held at Ilsan Kintex from October 14th to 16th. At the finals, the team 'Free Rider' that was formed of six seniors from the Department of Robot Engineering at Hanyang University, won the President award as first place. 2,300 contestants from 11 countries, including Japan and Singapore, participated in this competition. The group leader, Choi Min-jun, and the other members Cheon Hoi-young and Kim Min-ji, spoke about how they cooperated in the contest to be awarded first place.
Setting up a Glorious Foundation
IRC is a prestigious contest which has been held for 11 years, hosted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. It is comprised of three stages, the participant test, the preliminary round, and the finals. The winners were decided according to the number of missions they accomplished, the complexity of the tasks, and the speed of completion. Preparing for the contest requires participating teams to possess high creativity, perseverance and cooperation skills.
The team Free Rider was named to softly urge Cheon to work harder, because he joined the group one month late due to the exchange student program. However, what the team accomplished is ironically the exact opposite of its name. “Our team consists of the first people to graduate from our new, four-year-old major that is robot engineering. So we had no seniors to ask for guidance. With the help of professors, though, we could solve hardship in the process. That is why we strived to do our best, and we are happy to have achieved the results that match our efforts,” Choi said. “Since this is the last time we would be able to participate in a contest due to us being seniors, we were determined to accomplish fruitful results,” he added.
Like a Parent of a Robot
In the participant test, practicing how to recognize and find the objects utilizing two methods, using colors and dots to draw graphs, were important. “The performance of the given robot in the contest that was used from the preliminary round onwards was not particularly good. It was difficult to make the robot’s motions.” Therefore, the team first focused on the stability of the robot by programming very slow movements. “In the finals, we tried to solve the problem of slowness by compressing pixels to increase the speed eight times along with the technology to make the robot move several times at once when it sees an obstacle,” Choi explained. When the other teams benchmarked the group’s previous strategy of maintaining stability, Free Rider added speed on top of balance.
According to Kim, the team experienced many failures on the first day of the finals, which was the day to decide who would move on to the last day where winners were chosen. The team practiced until all the lights of the tournament site were turned off. Their tenacity was one of the core reasons why they were deemed first place. “We spent lot of time with our robot. We saw it fall and roll doing the missions. Opening its leg and taking off its lid to change its batteries, I felt like I was a parent looking over my child on a field day and was suddenly overwhelmed by emotions,” recalled Cheon.
Research for Robots to Help People
Kim and Cheon have been interested in robots since they were in middle and high school. Studying the robots, Kim and Choi thought the field of robot engineering was very enjoyable and truly suited their aptitude. In contrast, Cheon came to believe that the field of robots has depth and difficulty. The three are dreaming of entering graduate schools and becoming robot engineers. “Technology has advanced enough to actualize our ideas into real robots. The field of robot engineering is very attractive in this sense,” Cheon said. Kim is planning to join a lab which researches about robots that aid in disastrous situations. Choi’s objective is to develop wearable robots that can aid people who have difficulty walking. Cheon wants to study biometrics robots, which imitate the motions of animals.
“The ability to program and produce robots is important. However, creativity also makes a great difference, like when we solved a mission by making the robot roll, not by going around the obstacle,” said Choi. Kim advised that it would help to both take classes and participate in contests. Cheon said that being meticulous would be a great advantage for a robot engineer. Being the first to win in a huge scale contest in their major, Free Rider members would become true forerunners in the field of robot engineering.
Jang Soo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kim Youn-soo
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