New Delhi 2016, the WRO story continues.
Teams arriving at Delhi Airport immediately got a full taste of India traffic. It is busy, it is crowded and it seems that everyone is just doing what he wants, but somehow it works. Even though we were based quite a long way from the bursting Delhi city centre, the teams could already get a glimpse of India travelling to their hotels. They would soon find out that the country has lots more to offer!
Almost 2500 people were present in India. Hundreds of parents, coaches and judges made sure that the 463 teams representing 50 countries could perform at their best. The global diversity of WRO was clearly visible at this 13th international WRO final. This year’s event was held at the India Expo Mart, a modest but very convenient venue that was built by and for companies exporting Indian Handicrafts. Three big expo halls gave plenty of space for all activities.
At Friday, most teams arrived at the venue to prepare. Especially the Open Category teams have a lot of work to do before their prototypes and booths are ready. This year’s theme “Rap the Scrap” inspired teams to make inventive and creative exhibitions. We even saw a Garbage Bin driving around the venue! For the Regular Category, the “Rap the Scrap” theme resulted in challenges that had the teams develop and program a robot to help a child clean the streets on its journey to school, collect recyclable waste from a home or sort out recyclable waste into the proper recycling tank at a waste recycling plant.
The event started on Saturday with the presentation of the surprise rules for the Regular Category. These surprise rules test the teams’ abilities to their limits, because they must adapt their robot and/or software on the spot. And they must do it on their own, they cannot get help from their coaches or parents. On top of that, the teams for both the Regular and the Football Category cannot bring their robots in one piece. It should be totally dismantled and they can only use the official building period to put their robot back together. Without any instruction booklets or drawings… The tension in the building area rises as the clocks ticks away the minutes. Teams that do not finish their robots in time cannot compete in the matches! After an inspection round by the judges the robots are cleared for the matches and the teams start competing. And of course, the robots must be pre-programmed and navigate on the mat themselves. No remote control or other human interference is allowed.
The Open Category booths were soon bursting with energy as the teams explained their research and solutions to dozens of interested people. Whether they were other teams, Judges, parents or press, the teams were never too tired to explain once more. Even the smallest kids from the Elementary Age category did a good job explaining in English, though it is not the first language for most of them. The same energy was felt around the Regular and Football Category tables. Teams started explaining to each other which solutions they found to manage the tasks and in which way their robots were constructed.
In the Advanced Robotics Challenge (ARC) the students are older but even here you could see the tension on the faces of the contestants. The robots are bigger, the program languages are different and the challenges are much harder. But seeing as most contestants in this category are students of Technical Colleges and Universities, this is justified. In the ARC the Bowling Game was played for the second year. The teams had to build an autonomous robot capable of picking up a “bowling” ball and knocking over the bowling pins, whose position on the field was determined by a draw just before the match.
The traditional Friendship dinner on Saturday evening was a time to enjoy the Indian cuisine, watch some colourful dances on the stage and talk with new made friends from all over the world. For the teams that did not qualify for the final rounds it was time to relax. They would have time to visit the Open Category and Sponsor booths and the Mindstorms Experts on Sunday. The teams that did qualify were of course anxious about the next day.
On Sunday, it was time to compete for prizes. All teams are aware that it is not winning, but learning and making new friends that is most important. But naturally that is not the first thing on your mind when you are competing in the final round! The tension rose, especially around the WRO Football fields. Here the robots two teams compete directly against each other, which is incredibly exciting to watch.
The awards and closing ceremony was colourful as always, with all teams bringing their flags on stage. And posing brotherly next to each other. But that is certainly not the end for the young people involved. They learned valuable lessons for the future, made new friends and will no doubt get to meet each other again working on new robotics challenges. Maybe even next year, when we meet in Costa Rica for WRO 2017!
Final results from WRO 2016 can be seen at www.wro2016india.org