Global robotics competition heats up in Dubai


DUBAI – Even robots need a bit of tender loving care. Yes, their systems are smart, supported by cutting-edge artificial intelligence, and they’re more adaptable than people to a range of tasks. But it turns out that even they could use a human touch!

The 191 country teams participating in the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai know that very well. Fortunately, the specialized Robotics Clinic is open around the clock to repair any damages or mechanical problems the robots encounter during the days of the tournament.

With its four sub-sections – Workshop, Spare Parts, Inspection and Rapid Intervention, the clinic represents the heartbeat of the competition.

The facility is run by 25 Emirati technical experts, who provide maintenance support, inspections and the replacement of spare parts. Meanwhile, the Rapid Intervention squad is on hand for any contingencies, giving all teams a level playing field while creating a community that respects the technical skillset of each entrant.

At the end of a thrilling day of robotics competition, Kazakhstan leads the rankings with 1,167 points – a full 50 points ahead of second place. Once every qualifying-round match has been played (they conclude on 27 October at around 11am) 32 teams will progress into the Finals.

The finals take place from 2pm to 3.30pm today (Oct. 27). The six-team, three-on-three Grand Final will be held from 4pm to 4.30pm, following which the overall winner will be crowned.

In the final, three teams will ally with each other to take on another three newly-formed allies, in a demonstration of the event’s principle of cooperation and communication among youth.

Throughout the first two days of the event, the 1,500 youth represented at the event have been blown away by the myriad cultures, languages and colors on show at the Dubai-held event – the first in the event’s history to be hosted outside the Americas, and which has taken country representation from 157 to 191. It’s a sentiment that has swept the competition halls of Festival Arena’s purpose-built competition zones, embodying the values of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance.

Hessa Musabbeh, Technical Team Leader of the Robotics Clinic, shares that the facility examined and repaired more than 120 robots on the first day of the challenge. Most of the failures stemmed from issues with software, hardware, remote controls and batteries.

She explains that it takes five minutes on average to fix simple technical problems. The team conducts diagnostic and post-repair tests to prevent the failure from recurring during the competition. Meanwhile, more complicated issues can take between 10 and 20 minutes to resolve.

Ahlam Al Hammadi from the Robotics Clinic’s Workshop said the main task of her team is to cut, weld, dismantle and install robot parts. Most of the cases they have dealt with include cutting parts of the robot to comply with the size requirements of the competition’s regulations.

Meanwhile, Abdul Aziz Al Tunaiji from Inspection says his department checks all participating robots and verifies their quality, in addition to counting the number of pieces used in building the robots authorized for each team. For instance, the rules of the competition allow only two controllers per robot.

For her part, Hessa Al-Shehhi from the Rapid Intervention team, said: “We have eight trained technicians that repair robots on an urgent basis at the participating team’s site with a portable toolkit. Our main role is quick intervention in case of emergencies and sudden malfunctions minutes before entering the competition.”

She added: “On the first day, we were able to repair and adjust more than 25 robots in record time. Most of the technical issues were due to network configuration.”

Fatima Mohammed from Spare Parts, says: “Our department replaces all mechanical spare parts of the robots. We have a total of 50,000 parts of more than 150 types in store. Most of the requests we dealt with on day one were to replace batteries and engines.”

Organized by Dubai Future Foundation under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai has drawn the participation of more than 1,500 contestants aged 14-18 from 191 countries. Running from 24 to 27 October, this year’s edition of the global robotics competition focuses on innovations that protect the oceans.

During the seventh World Government Summit in February 2019, His Excellency Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future and Managing Director of Dubai Future Foundation, announced that Dubai won the bid to host the FIRST Global Challenge 2019, testifying to the emirate’s status as a global destination for the development of future technologies. The win also reflects the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to motivate Arab youth to innovate and excel in the fields of science and technology that play an integral role in building a prosperous future for the region. — SG