By Siti Syameen Md Khalili
Kuala Lumpur, Sept 10: The worsening pandemic situation that hit Malaysia may have dampened the spirits of many, but not these teens who had been entrusted with the task to uphold the country’s name in the field of robotics.
Their task was a daunting one – to build and program a robot that would be strong enough to compete in a 160-nation international competition all while being stuck at home.
Twelve brilliant teens, aged between 15 and 17 were chosen through the 2021 International Roboticist Challenge organised by Roboticist Malaysia.
Able to demonstrate exceptional skills in robot programming, computer-aided design and STEM-pitch technical presentation, the students were recruited to represent Malaysia in this year’s FIRST Global Challenge, an Olympics-style robotics competition.
FIRST Global Challenge is a STEM-themed competition founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen.
It calls for participating teams to come up with innovations that could perform tasks within three main categories namely Solutions Challenge, CubeSat Prototype Challenge and Robotics Challenge.
Malaysia’s representatives this year came from three different schools, SMK Bukit Bandaraya Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur, Malay College Kuala Kangsar in Perak and Tun Fatimah School in Johor.
Calling themselves Team Malaysia, the line up comprises Muhammad Nabeel Aiman Shamsul who is based in Selangor, Wan Alyaa Surahtul Aniyah Kamaruzaman (Kuala Lumpur), Ariff Amir Ali (Selangor), Zafreen Arissa Rizwana Abdullah (Johor), Balqis Musfirah Ishak (Selangor), Nurin Hannah Mohd Hisham (Selangor), Muhammad Faris Imran Yusri Izzudin (Selangor), Azim Addy Zulkifly (Kuala Lumpur), Zulaikha Raihana binti Zulfadzli (Johor), Nur Farisha Mazlan (Kelantan), Adam Mikael Aris Abdullah (Johor) and Hariz Irfan Mohd Rozhan (Perlis).
Featuring phase by phase battles, FIRST Global Challenge, which commenced on June 27 will end on September 28.
While most teams from other nations had the advantage of being able to meet up, discuss and collaborate, the boys and girls from Malaysia had only Zoom and delivery service to rely on.
“They may be based in three different states but the students are scattered all over the country so they have decided to divide and conquer the tasks,” Ilylia Kamaruzaman (pictured above), founder of Roboticist who also served as team advisor told DailyStraits.com.
“They also had to build the robots and CubeSat prototype at home then pass them on to the next team member to complete the units.
“They have been so cooperative and energetic.”
In the Solutions Challenge, Team Malaysia chose to tackle an environment problem of today, where the spread of zoonotic diseases such as the coronavirus had greatly impacted the level of health globally.
The youth chose to delve into the usage of microalgae-based purifiers to improve air quality, which garnered the attention of many other nations.
As the second phase in the Solution Challenge category requires nations to build an alliance, Malaysia received offers to partner from more than 10 countries.
“The students had the opportunity to virtually meet with other teams, and this serves as a great platform for them to network and makes new friendships,” said Ilylia.
Team Malaysia eventually chose the team from Oman as their ally for the second phase of Solutions Challenge, which ran from August 8 to 21.
In the CubeSat Prototype Challenge all teams are required to come up with their nanosatellite, a device sized only 10 cm³, from scratch.
Using an Arduino-based kit, the prototype must be designed, built, programmed and tested before being deployed into the lower layers of earth’s atmosphere.
In the Robotics Challenge, a REV Robotic kit will be the base of each team’s robot.
Just like in the CubeSat Prototype Challenge, the teams must use the REV components to tackle four individual build tasks, namely Drivetrain Delivery, Intake Intrigue, Launcher Longshot and Climber Chaos.
Apart from tasks, all participants are also invited to STEM talks and technical training sessions.
“The FIRST Global Challenge has been a great opportunity for me as a student and fan of science and technology,” Wan Alyaa Surahtul Aniyah, representing Team Malaysia said.
“I believe the friendship I made will also be one of the best takeaways for each one of us.”
Follow the progress of Team Malaysia on their Instagram account.