GENEVA (AP) – A team of Ukrainian teenagers encountered a problem on their first trip to a celebrated robotics competition for high school students from many countries.
Because shipments of goods to Ukraine were uncertain and Ukrainian customs officers carefully screened incoming goods, the group only received basic equipment on the day they were due to leave for the Geneva event.
That sparked a mad scramble to assemble their robot for the latest edition of the First Global competition, a three-day event that opened in person on Friday for the first time since the pandemic. Almost all of the approximately 180 teams from all over the world had months to prepare their robots.
“We couldn’t give in because we were really determined to come here and give our country a good result – because it really needs it now,” said Danylo Gladkyi, a member of the Ukraine team. He and his teammates are too young to be eligible for Ukraine’s national conscription of all men over the age of 18 to participate in the war effort.
Gladkyi said an international parcel delivery company does not deliver to Ukraine and reliance on a smaller private company to ship the parcel from Poland to Ukraine has run afoul of customs officials. That backlog was cleared last Sunday, forcing the team to get its robot ready with planned adjustments – just days before the start of the competition.
The event, created in 2017 with the support of American innovator Dean Kamen, encourages young people from all corners of the world to apply their technical skills and mechanical know-how to challenges that represent symbolic solutions to global problems.
This year’s theme is carbon capture, an emerging technology that will suck excess heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere from the sky and sequester it—often underground—to help combat global warming.
Teams use game controllers, like the ones attached to consoles in millions of homes around the world, to make their custom robots dash through pits, or “fields,” to pick up hollow plastic spheres with holes in them, symbolically representing carbon. Each round begins with a clear rectangular box filled with the balls being emptied onto the field, leading to a whirring, hissing scramble to pick it up.
The initial goal is to fill a tower with a hopper in the middle of the field with as many balls as possible. Teams can do this in two ways: either by instructing the robots to feed the balls into corner pockets where team members can pull them out and toss them into the hopper by hand, or have the robots catapult the balls up into the hoppers itself.
Each team has an interest in filling the funnel: the more collected, the more everyone benefits.
But in the last 30 seconds of each session, after the frenetic search for the balls, a second, cutthroat challenge awaits you: along the trunk of each tower there are short branches or poles at different levels, from which the teams choose the mechanism of their choice like Hooks, winches or extendable arms – try to steer your robots to climb.
The higher the level reached, the greater the “multiplier” of the total score of balls they receive. Achievement is going as high as possible, and with six teams on the field, it’s a shot for the top spot.
By marrying competition with shared interests, First Global seeks to provide empowerment in a troubled world where children look beyond politics to help solve problems facing everyone.
The opening ceremony had an Olympic feel, with teams marching behind their national flags and short beats of national anthems, but the youngsters made it clear that this was a new kind of global collegiate sport in an industrial arena that promises to be a big thing in the 21st century. century to leave a large footprint.
The competition distracts many from the troubles in the world, from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the aftermath of the ongoing war in Syria to the famine in the Horn of Africa and recent upheaval in Iran.
While most countries in the world participated, some were not: Russia in particular was left out.
Previous winners of such robotic competitions include “Team Hope” – refugees and stateless people – and a team of Afghan girls.