On July 30th, the finale of Hong Kong’s largest ever Makeblock robotics competition in took place at Hong Kong Cyberport. Organized by Tin Ka Ping Secondary School, Hong Kong University’s e-Learning Development Laboratory, Hong Kong Cyberport, together with Makeblock Hong Kong’s exclusive distributor Everbest Technologies.
Being supported and sponsored by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, it is a key part of Hong Kong’s plan to educate a new generation in STEM subjects while exploring their creativity and problem solving skills through the use of Makeblock robots.
The STEM in mBot 2017 plan include a variety of mBot seminars, sharing sessions, student workshops and a range of competitions that over the course of the year challenges over a thousand primary and secondary school students to showcase their talents in both technology and teamwork. The five categories of competitions are mBot Soccer, 6-legged Robot, Line-following. STEM Maker, and Mars Challenge, of which the last two took place on the day of the finale.
Also present with us on-site was the MakeX team who held show matches of their unique robot battle concept.
In the first part of the competition, STEM Maker, students were asked to build a solution to help in the daily lives of Hong Kong’s elderly. Here, not only technical smarts were needed but also empathy with the end-user as well as thorough research to ensure a practical and user-friendly design.
In the primary school group, a team from the Po Leung Kuk Castar Primary School and their home care device that aims to help elderly with memory problems, slow movement and cognitive disorders and other issues, took home the first prize.
The team’s solution used the mCore main control board, color LED light module, flame sensor, ultrasonic sensors, and consisted of a total of three parts: an intelligent lighting device, a fire detection device, and a fainting detection device, to solve the issues met in the daily lives of the elderly.
Intelligent lighting device: An infrared sensor detects when the person gets out of bed and gradually lights up the LED module to provide lighting.
Fire detection device: When the flame sensor detects a fire the LED panel will display a flame shape, while the speaker sounds to alert the elderly. When the fire is distinguished, the sound will stop and the LED turn off.
Fainting detection device: The ultrasound module will detect when a person is sitting on the toilet, and if they have not moved within a certain amount of time as a result of an accident or medical complications, a text message will automatically be sent to a family member or other contact person.
In the second part of the competition, Mars Challenge, students were asked to design, build, and program a robot using a kit provided by Makeblock. They then put their vehicle to the test, having to face obstacles such as sand, rocks, upward and downward sloping ramps, and picking up and dropping a ball into a cup.
One of the high school teams are preparing to cross the bed of rocks after successfully having picked up the ball.
We talked to the winning team from Sing Yin high-school about their thoughts on the Mars Challenge and what the key factors in their win were.
What was the most challenging part of the course?
Most difficult was the going uphill on the ramp, because sand entered into our track and gear contact surfaces and caused our robot to lose power. We also had problems with friction on the ramp barely being enough to climb it as it was covered in sand. Finally, we did manage to climb it, though!
Looking at your robot, what was the main advantage of your design?
The most important thing we found was how the robot is balanced. Good weight balancing is required to properly control the speed of the robot, for example in the downwards ramp. We did this by placing the batteries evenly, one stack at the front and one at the back of the robot.
As a team, what set you apart from the others?
Communication and cooperation within the team is essential to be able to navigate and finish the challenge quickly, and likewise for designing the robot.
Finally, has taking part in this competition changed or reinforced your interest in technology?
Participating in these games made me understand how important skills in science and technology are, and makes me want to do it for a career so as to help people lead better lives.
Wrapping up the event, the Makeblock and MakeX teams on-site during the games were excited to see so many talents at such early age and we’re already looking forward to next year’s edition of STEM in mBot!