Giving life to metal, wires and bulbs would have been considered as magic a few centuries back. But presently, Robotics or the art of assembling a machine that mimics life is a flourishing field of science and mechanics that is not so unfamiliar among the young enthusiasts. The aspirations set by the scientific communities to raise technological interest in the young generation has been one influential factor in the gradual progression in the field of robotics inventions.
The University community in Sri Lanka take great steps in this mission, providing the youth with knowledge and facilities together with plenty of opportunities. SRI LANKA ROBOTICS CHALLENGE-2016 organized by the E club, department of electronics and telecommunication, University of Moratuwa, on the 11th of November was one such event that openly invited the national intellects to put their robotics skills to the test.
Team ”Destroyer” of the University of Colombo was one of the many teams who took part in the university category. They were also among the 3 proud teams who returned home with a trophy in hand and a championship tale to tell. Team leader Thilina Roshan Payagala, Hasith Perera, Mohan Dakshina, Thimira Thilakarathna and Vishara De Silva were all brilliant and spirited special degree pursuers in physics currently in their 3rd year. Busy schedules aside, I was able to find a little bit of time to meet the winners and get their story.
Q. How did you get to participate in Sri Lanka Robotics Challenge-2016?
This is a very popular robotics competition. It can also be named as the most challenging one in the nation, in comparison to the other competitions we participated. Actually we have been taking part in this particular one the previous years. So we thought of giving it a try this year as well.
Q. How was team ”Destroyer” brought into being?
Three of us, Hasith, Thilina and Thimira were in the team Destroyer for a last year competition. And later, we found Dakshina and Vishwa who follow special degrees in physics together with us. It’s a team brought together by fellowship and the fascination over robotics.
Q. What functionalities and actions were expected from the robot for this competitions? How different and difficult were they from the previous events?
Actually two robots needed to be built in order to complete the challenge. One manual robot and another autonomous robot.
The auto robot should be capable of line following or simply put, to find its path in a grid of white lines. It is allowed to take a dry run through the grid and discover all paths before the start. From these, he should be able to figure out which are the possibilities. He also needed to be able to lift a box and place it in a predefined location in the grid.
The manual robot was controlled by one of our team members. And it was supposed to go through a ramp placed in the same arena. He was also expected to shoot a small ball over a distance of about 3 feet.
The specialty of these two is that they must function in perfect synchronization without any communication between them. The grid was set in such a way that one robots actions affects the progress of the other in the completion of the task. If one fails at one point, the other robot was deemed to stop. For one example, the auto robot would not be able to advance in the grid, if the manual robot could not unload the box in the hole over which the other is expected to come over.
The set of tasks were pretty complicated and advance in comparison to others.
Q. What do you have to say about Sri Lanka Robotics Challenge-2016?
The event was actually a great place to explore the possibilities in this field. Apart from the gaming spirit, we were able to enjoy the event alot. The participants of the 19 teams were very friendly, supportive of each other and enthusiastic. The judges and the organizers were very flexible and friendly when it came to problems during the event. We were given the time to ready ourselves and many of the competitors found the day tension-free. And the marks obtained were constantly updated and displayed which was also a great relief. We must be grateful for the organizers in the University of Moratuwa for this.
Q. How did you feel when you earned the prize?
There were two rounds in the competition. The first round chose the best 8 out of all. We earned the second place in that round. And the next round was more or less to complete the tasks with a little bit of changes. From that round, we emerged the runners up of the Sri Lanka Robotics Challenge-2016.
We actually had our hopes on the first or the second place from the beginning. So at the end, we felt very accomplished and happy.
Q. Who are you thankful to?
We are much thankful to the Head of the department of Physics, Prof. Sonnadara, for allowing us to take part in it as a university team. Dr. Hiran should be reminded with great respect for instructing and supporting us.
Special thanks must go to the staff of the department workshop for permitting us to use the facilities as Special degree pursuers and competitors.
We are sincerely thankful to our parents and our friends who encouraged and supported us throughout.
Each one of us are thankful to every member of our team for making this a success in the middle of all other work in academics as well as in their lives.
Q. What inspired and drives you? Why so passionate for robotics?
This is actually a hobby for almost all of us. We love testing the technologies and trends. It is where we actually practice what theories we learn in the classroom. So what really drives us is the curiosity and love for science.
Q. What can we expect from you all in the future?
We are planning to build up a robotics society or a club within the Faculty of Science in order to make awareness, disseminate technological knowledge and to raise the public enthusiasm in the field of robotics. We are currently supporting the young scientists in the faculty who are passionate about robotics, and we are set on doing so in the future as well. If possible and if the necessary infrastructure is provided, we hope to organize robotics competitions just as the ones we competed in, thereby letting the young generation enjoy robotics as much as we do.
In addition to the titles at the competitions, the three winning teams were also selected to represent Sri Lanka in IRC (International Robotics Challenge), “Tech Fest 2016”! Heartiest congratulations go to the Silver Winning Destroyers, while the wishes are also extended to the two teams from the university of Moratuwa who secured the Championship and the second-runners up positions.
The Sri Lanka Robotics Challenge-2016 was an event that let the young scientists to put their brain-powers to the test. While much spirit and competitiveness was provided, the event was a place to discover opportunities. With much to expect in the years to come, the faculty of science undergraduates promise unmatched passion and drive to redefine the limits in all fields of Sciences.