The sounds of excited chatter filled the air as pupils representing 34 countries went head to head at the 8th International World Robot Olympiad's (WRO) final round, which started in the capital yesterday.
Shaikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, inaugurated the event.
It is the first time that the competition, which is taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), is being held outside the Far East. Winners will be honoured at the event's closing ceremony today [Sunday].
"This is the first time that we participate in the competition and we were so happy and excited to be selected as one of the finalist teams representing the UAE… the pupils based in our centre in Abu Dhabi built the robots but we're providing the programming skills," said Mansour Mosabah, Zayed Higher Organisation for Special Needs and Humanitarian Care.
Mosabah, who is one of the team's two coaches from the Centre's Al Ain branch, added: "For us, it's more about being a part of all of this, meeting other pupils and coaches, and showing that those with special needs can still be functioning members of society."
The WRO is one of the largest international robotic competitions for pupils, who compete in teams to assemble robots that will participate in challenges to solve a specific problem. It utilises LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education kits, which utilise LEGO pieces and motors, sensors and microprocessors. "This year, more that 600 schools across the UAE competed to be among the final teams representing the UAE at the WRO.
"This shows that there is an increased awareness about the use of technology and robots in learning environments to help us encourage pupils to become creative thinkers and problem solvers …. which is line with both our New School Model (NSM) and our government's 2030 vision to move our society into a knowledge-based economy," Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, Director General of Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), hosts of the competition, said.
In addition to the competition, a special symposium was held on Friday, November 18 that discussed the role and potential of robotics in the educational sector.
"As part of the competition, 20 coaches from ADEC trained 500 teachers, both male and female, on how to create and use robotics… that information was then provided to the competing pupils and so we see a continuation of using such technological tools as part of a 21st century educational environment," said Dr Najla Al Naqbi, Programme manager at the Council.
Open Category: In the Open Category participants are asked to develop and present a robotic solution that would assist in improving the lives of humans.
Regular Category: In the Regular Category specific rules are given relating to a particular mission, which is determined by the age group categories. Elementary participants must develop and guide a robot, junior high participants must develop a stair climbing robot and high school participants must develop a recycling robot. Participants also face a surprise rule announced on the morning of the competition.
WRO GEN II Robot Football: The WRO GEN II Robot Football Category is comprised of participants between the ages of 11 to 19. Participants are asked to construct robots, The UAE National Team for the International World Robot Olympiad (WRO) 2011 were made of various groups representing different locations across the country:
24 from Abu Dhabi City; 19 from Al Ain; 23 from Dubai; 5 from Fujairah;
7 from Madinat Zayed; 7 from Ras Al Khaimah; 11 from Ruwais.
An additional six teams from special needs centres will participate in a special exhibition category hosted by the UAE WRO Organising committee.