International success in China


As is my habit, since 2017 I have been regularly participating in the national round of the RoboRAVE robotics competition in the Fire Fighting category organized in the Czech Republic by the Association for Youth, Science and Technology AMAVET.

This competition was first held in 2001 in New Mexico, USA. The goal is to bring children and youth together with academic and practical job skills in today's world of modern technology. The name is based on the English Robots Are Very Educational. Today's play, tomorrow's pay.

Since participation is possible in a team of at least two people, I choose someone to join me every year. Let me quickly explain what the firefighting category is all about. The robot is placed in a jury-selected starting position in a 2.4 x 3.5m field, bordered by a contrasting line. It has to move autonomously on the playing field and search for candles standing in circles marked on the ground and hidden behind different numbers of screens. They must not drop anything or leave the field within three minutes. The machine that blows out all four candles in the shortest time will receive the most points.

But let's go back to the beginning. During my first participation (2017) I competed with a robot built with Lego MINDSTORMS. With this construction we finished in 5th place.

A year later, the Lego robot was running again, carrying one more control unit and a couple of extra sensors that communicated with each other via Bluetooth wireless interface compared to the previous version. This robot won us 3rd place.

2019 was a very interesting year in terms of robot design. First I had a prototype built on a Lego platform, then I started experimenting with a combination of Lego and an Arduino microcontroller. In the end, I decided on a machine built on the Arduino platform with a custom wooden structure, even though I had below average grades in my programming classes at school. It was a big challenge for me.

But this year has been a very positive year in my history. By winning the national round, I was able to participate in the RoboRAVE International held in the city of Conghua in Southeast China.

So I decided to build a new and more challenging project out of plexiglass and to "tune" the robot using backlighting and display. I used ten more arduinos and fifty more sensors compared to the previous version.

The international competition, which drew or flew in over 1700 competitors from 15 countries, kicked off at the Ecology Convention Center on July 19 and lasted three days. Countless times during the course I had to adjust the program due to local differences. Still, after the first and second day, the robot, called Project X, had the second highest score along with the best time recorded in a competition of 36 teams. It was a dream come true to advance to the finals.

During the eight-team elimination battle, the robot decided to strike and rested in the middle of the ring with a nice view of the surrounding candles. Thanks to this (evil) act, he ended up winning "only" 5th place, but still got the best international ranking. China scored all places from 1st to 13th except 5th, 6th and 12th.