Teens conquer robotics world in Taipei triumph


Interview with World Robotics Games Champion for Sumo robots category and winner of best in country trophy . —LOW LAY PHON/The Star

IN A display of skill and ingenuity, Malaysian teenagers Anson Tan and Cho Ji Shen clinched top honours at the World Robot Games 2023 Taipei (WRG2023).

The duo finished in first place in the Senior Sumo Doubles 3kg (Autonomous) category after their robots soundly defeated their Filipino counterparts in the final event.

Their route to triumph was particularly impressive, not only for dispatching their opponents in the final round in a matter of seconds, but for outperforming the category favourites from Thailand in the semi-finals.

Held at the National Taiwan Science Education Centre last November, WRG2023 saw teams from 10 countries around the world compete in various categories and events.

The Sumo event involves robots, either autonomous or remote-controlled, vying to push their opponents out of a 120cm diameter ring.

Their vehicles were built using laser-cut metal sheets with a single blade attached to the front, which is used to damage their opponents' vehicles as well as lift them from the ground and push them out of the ring.

The robot is driven by two wheels at the rear, while the internals of the robot include a 12v motor, battery pack, and five infrared sensors for movement and detection.

Using the C++ programming language, they had to come up with codes for the machine’s onboard Arduino microcontroller, which would determine the robot’s movement and carry out their chosen strategy.

"At the time, we had between five and seven programmes which we could choose from before each match," Ji Shen said.

In their proudest event, the Senior Doubles Sumo (3kg) category, Anson and Ji Shen were the underdogs as it was their first foray into competition with one another and they had not participated at this level together.

Their competitors from Thailand, who also did well in the WRG2023 open and senior sumo categories, were in fact strong favourites.

However, the duo was able to outshine them after closely observing their opponents in other matches.

Anson said they went into the doubles event opting for a new strategy after studying their opponents.

"We observed that the Thai team’s machine took time to build up momentum. That was the time we decided to take advantage by ramming their machine before it could get up to speed," Ji Shen explained.

"This was because they were using a 24v design which had a more powerful motor but a less balanced chassis. Our 12v motor could accelerate quickly without compromising our vehicle balance," Anson said.

"So, we decided to take our chance to attack their robot from the get-go," Anson added.

Since getting into robotics at the primary school level, both had participated in and won various state and national competitions.

At WRG2023, the duo also were awarded the "Best in Country" trophy for their win and performance in four other events.

Individually, Ji Shen, 16, from SMJK Katholik in Petaling Jaya, also finished as second runner-up in the Senior Sumo 3kg (Autonomous) event as well as his participation in the Open Sumo 5kg (Remote Controlled) event.

Anson, 17, from St. John's International Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur, also took part in the Senior Sumo 3kg (Autonomous) event where he faced Ji Shen in the quarterfinal and had to settle for third runner-up.

Anson also narrowly qualified for the Open Sumo 5kg (Autonomous) event but missed out due to a worn-out blade which could not be replaced at the time.

Although the competition was fierce, with teams from the Philippines, China, Bhutan, Mexico, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Taiwan, "the competition was exhilarating," Anson said.

Following their impressive performance, the duo aims to build on their success and take their skills to new heights, inspired by their experience on the global stage.

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