Autonomous boats and robot battles: Young engineers face off at Egypt robotics contest

By CGTN Africa

The third and final day of the 13th Arab Robotics Championship in the coastal Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh saw several first-time contestants rise to the winners’ podium. The four-day competition, which concluded Monday, was aimed at encouraging young people to engage with advanced tech in hopes of boosting the region’s robotics and engineering sectors.

Despite the dire conditions in his home country of Libya, Khaled Al Warfeli and his team managed to find a local sponsor to support their trip to join the competition in Egypt. Concerned about biodiversity in the region, the team created a robotic boat that can help clean lakes.

The Libyan team’s design is equipped with cameras and GPS systems to locate waste at the bottom of lakes and uses robotic arms to pick it up.

“The judges liked our prototype, not only because it overcomes an environmental challenge, but also because it is ready for immediate production. Made out of simple components, it can be easily assembled and programmed for mass implementation,” Al Warfeli told CGTN.

The Libyan project won first place in the innovation category of the competition.

Abdallah Mohamed from Egypt was another first-time participant. His design clinched the win in the contest’s “Follow the Line” category. It’s a challenge where robots must follow a line from beginning to end in a field full of obstacles. The challenge is to program robots to figure out how to find their way around the obstacles and finish the course in the shortest time.

“This is one of the most competitive disciplines in the championship, Mohamed said. “Every participating country holds a domestic competition in Follow the Line. The winning teams come here to challenge each other. We had to study electronics and review robots designed for previous editions, in order to ensure ours could fully operate autonomously.”

The access the championship gives to its archives aims to build up an accumulative body of knowledge for the region’s young engineers to learn from. This way, students participating get empowered to introduce more advanced technologies than those used in previous editions of the contest.

In the ‘Collect the Ball’ category, competitors control robots racing to pick up a ball and score it in an opponent’s goal. The challenge requires speed, precise control over the robot and skill to hold the ball while keeping the opposing robot from snatching it back.

The winners in that challenge came from Qatar. They say that, while battling it out for control of the ball is fun and exciting, these robots can also be used for practical, real-world applications.

Team member and first-time participant Hussein Alnaema said, “It’s a game but, using the same concept, we can build robots to pick up litter from cities and collect them at designated locations, thus saving a lot of manpower in cleaning the streets.”

Hussein’s teacher, Abdullah Al Musleh said that the experience his student gained during the journey from creating an idea to winning the competition was remarkable.

“Our school has been competing in the robotics championships for seven years. Robotic technology is a fast-growing field. So every year the requirements for the competition are completely different from the one before. The innovations are inspiring. The number of countries and participants continue to grow,” he added.

The Arab Robotics Championship was established in 2008. It focuses on school and university students, aiming to create a regional foundation for advanced technologies and smart solutions. 

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