UWI robotics team finishes third in international competitionWednesday, April 13, 2016
KINGSTON, Jamaica — A nine-member team from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, finished third in the 2016 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Southeast Conference Robotics Competition, held in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 2.
The UWI Mona also fielded a team in the software competition that placed sixth of 23 schools.
UWI said on Wednesday in a news release that the two placements are the highest ever by a UWI team in the annual Southeast Conference competitions.
The team members: Yekini Wallen-Bryan – team captain; Paulo Williams, Richard Harris, Aisha Robinson, Khalid Sharpe, Sean McBean, Jason Brown, Locksley Murray, Kriston Kong, and Dane Miller, with UWI lecturer Lindon Falconer as team advisor, competed against 46 universities from the IEEE region in the south-east USA in the competition which was based on shipping terminal tasks.
UWI said the competition required participants to build a robot that could navigate a course and identify coloured blocks simulating shipping containers. The blocks were to be collected and placed in various positions on the court.
After three rounds, the UWI team had amassed enough points to take them into the final round with three other teams. At the finals, Florida Institute of Technology placed first, Murray State University was second and UWI, Mona placed ahead of Virginia Military, to take the third position.
According to the news release, the team of second-year Electronics Engineering, Computer Systems Engineering and Physics students overcame great odds to finish in the top three, having had parts of the robot destroyed due to poor handling during the flight from Miami to Virginia. UWI said the members worked through the night and into the following day to restore the robot to some semblance of functioning.
Team captain Yekini Wallen-Bryan said: "The entire project was a roller coaster of emotions. We faced so many roadblocks on the way, even up to a few days before the competition itself. We had checked in our robot since it was too large to fit into any of our carry-ons. The chest in which the robot was placed was stuffed with padding and bubble wrap and covered with "fragile" and "this side up" stickers.
“However, when we arrived at the hotel and opened the chest we found that major parts of Cortez (the robot) had been destroyed,” Wallen-Bryan said.
The entire team was devastated.
However, they managed to pull themselves together and came up with solutions to make the robot work. They formed two smaller teams — one worked through the night on the hardware and the other team woke up early and worked on the wiring and the coding.
“We arrived on Thursday at 1:00 am and finished the salvage of what we could of the robot on the Friday, which took up a lot of the time we had planned to use for testing. Not only that, but some gears were permanently damaged,” said Wallen-Bryan.
“Through hard work, sleepless nights and determination, we managed to salvage just enough to get into the final four schools, after which, we placed third. Had the robot not got damaged or had the gear not been worn out, would we have won? Who knows? I strongly believe so though,” he concluded.