A successful WRO 2015
Doha was the perfect venue for WRO 2015. It has the tradition that can be seen in the elegant dhows plying their trade on the azure blue Persian Gulf, but is also embracing modern technology and full of bold, new developments. Such was the backdrop for around 2000 young people and adult helpers who arrived to WRO 2015!
The hallmark of the WRO is its smooth organisation, so as the competitors, helpers and judges flew in from 48 countries, they were quickly allocated to hotels around this most vibrant of cities before being spirited off to the opening ceremony on Friday night. After that, it was back to the hotels to check the robots survived the journey and early to bed for a nine am start back at the arena.
Events all took place at the Al Shaqab Equestrian Facility, a soaring expanse of steel and glass arranged into a distinctive horseshoe that normally acts as home to some of the world’s finest horses. For these two days in November, however, it played host to thoroughbreds of a different kind, as the teams carried in their robots, designed rather than bred over many months to solve a set of complex robotics challenges.
Exactly what the robots’ challenge was depended on the category they had been entered into. They change each year to keep teams on their toes and judges also make last minute changes to test the roboteers’ ability to improvise and think on their feet. This year saw them finding ways to dive for pearls, go mountaineering or hunt for treasure, play football or even, in this year’s debut event, go bowling.
The hall was lined with the tables with the colour-coded mats on them which the teams had been working with for the previous months, and which the robots would have to traverse. Mats change each year, and the robots also have to navigate them with no remote control or other outside human hel[. From the moment each session starts, they’re wholly on their own.
It made for a tense atmosphere in the hall, but every WRO event is also chance to meet people from countries you may only have seen on a map. In a few hours, when teams had found their feet and started to compete with each other, there were soon conversations taking place in many different languages and new friendships being made.
The first day ended with the Friendship Dinner at which many of these friendships were cemented, as well as lectures and robotics masterclasses from experts in the field. For the teams who would progress no further, it marked the end of an exciting day, full of colour, life and, of course, robots, but for the others, it was on to the final day’s competition.
Back in the hall the following day, numbers might have thinned out, but the tension increased as teams closed in on their final prize. By 12 o’clock, the finals were over, and the most imaginative, the fastest and the millimetre-precise were all crowned as winners. The point, though, is not who wins, but who learns the most by taking part and the friendships that were made along the way.
Like all WRO events, it came to an end with the awards and the closing ceremony, but for many of the roboteers, it didn’t end at all. The lessons learned and the friendships made will stretch into the future and many of these competitors will see each other at future events or work together on robotics challenges of the future. With the ancient values of friendship and technology of tomorrow, Doha can be the springboard to tomorrow.
Final results from WRO 2015 can be seen at www.wro2015.org/ranking
We look forward to welcoming everyone in Delhi for WRO 2016!