Nine teams from six local universities and institutes are working at full steam to make robots that will be displayed at Robocon Cambodia 2020.

The event, now in its seventh iteration, will be held in May at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

The winning team will compete at the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Robot Contest (ABU Robocon) in August, which will be hosted in Fiji.

Pang Choman, who is organising Robocon Cambodia, says the theme for this year is the sport of rugby, Fiji’s national pastime.

This might present a challenge for Cambodians, who are generally unfamiliar with the sport, Choman says, adding that participating students are being introduced to the game.

RUPP, the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), and the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia (NPIC) will each have two teams representing them at Robocon Cambodia 2020, while the National University of Management (NUM), Preah Kossomak Polytechnic Institute (PKPI) and National Technical Training Institute (NTTI) will have one team each.

“Each team has been tasked with designing two robots – a ‘pass robot’, and a ‘try robot’. The pass robot must be able to pick up the ball, while the try robot needs to place the ball in the opposition’s in-goal area.

“Points are awarded depending on the step and the zone. Points can be earned if the ball lands on the opponent’s zone. Each game can last up to three minutes and end when all seven balls have been kicked,” he says.

A robot made by students from the National University of Management. Photo supplied

Choman says this type of event helps promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in the Kingdom, adding that Cambodia is in dire need of more engineers, particularly in the tech, health and agriculture sectors.

“Technology and robotics are now being integrated into everyday life. This competition will enhance our students’ knowledge of the real-life applications of disciplines like mathematics, physics and computer science.”

Choman stressed the importance of teamwork to succeed in the competition.

“It is important that all team members work together and combine their knowledge, skills, and creativity. The whole point is to work together and share ideas.”

Founded in 2002 by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), ABU Robocon is held annually, bringing together university students from more than 20 countries in Asia-Pacific.

During the event, robots compete to be the fastest at completing certain tasks.

Last year, the theme chosen for the competition was the ‘Great Urtuu,’ the fascinating information system invented by nomadic Mongolians that enabled messages to travel a distance of 400km per day.

A robot assembled by a team from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia. Photo supplied

That year, a team from NPIC won the national competition and travelled to Ulaanbaatar for the next round of the competition. Unfortunately, the Cambodian team didn’t make it to the final.

One of the contenders this year is a team from PKPI. The team consists of seven boys and five girls, all studying electronics and mechanics.

Chrin Chiva, one of the teachers supervising the team, says the students are halfway through finishing the robot and that it should be ready in time for the competition.

“This year’s team is unique because we have more girls than in previous years. Before, we had only one or two girls. This year we have five.

“I am excited because this shows that more girls are taking an interest in STEM. More women are realising that these skills are in high demand in the job market. In the past, people used to think that only men could work in this field,” says Chiva.

Not surprisingly, the outbreak of Covid-19 might pose a serious problem.

“Shipments of several components needed to build the robot might be delayed. It is a problem because these parts are mainly coming from China and Vietnam.

“I worry because the students are working on this project until late. They are very tired because they also have to go for classes in the morning, so they are putting in great effort,” Chiva says.

Robocon Cambodia 2020 will be held on May 2 at RUPP’s Main Hall.