The prestigious competition, which took place between December 21–23 at Sochi Olympic Park, saw the Phuketians finish in 6th place. Not bad for a team that wasn’t suppose to compete in Russia in the first place.
“We did not expect that we would be one of the top eight teams,” said 22-year-old Rajabhat student and team-member Pipat “Nueng” Jarernsuk after placing in the College Regular Category.
The team – which also includes 21-year-old Vichan “Jack” Sriphaew and 23-year-old Jaroenpong “Kay” Puttra – were asked to design and create a robot that would assist humans in solving different tasks in outer space. The Rajabhat students ended up making a robot that moves autonomously and recognises objects by colour and shape in order for it to pick up and place them in small spaces.
It wasn’t an easy journey from the qualifying competition in Bangkok, which took place in September, as the team initially finished in 3rd place and out of the running to compete in Russia. But after the second place team were unable to fly out of the country, the Rajabhat students took their place.
“We were not the winners. We were not even in the top ranking at all. But that [Bangkok] competition was a lesson for us,” said team-member Kay, who added that they were encouraged by Dr. Siriwan Chatmaneeruncharoen, the head of the Faculty of Education in General Science at the university, and professor Robert Kief.
The students were given a month notice that they would be flying to Russia to compete in the big competition.
Money was raised to upgrade the robot’s parts and computer hardware as their first effort, which was made using borrowed equipment and an older generation computer module from the university, was not up to par to compete on the world stage.
The team ordered parts from Taiwan which took three weeks to deliver, which left them with little time to put it all together. The final product ended up beating out their fellow Thai team – the same squad that finished first in the Bangkok competition in September.
“We did not have much time to practice as much as we wanted but we did our best. We were worried. But we went into the deeper rounds until we were one of the top eight teams,” Nueng told The Phuket News.
Despite the relative short amount of time to setup the machine, the Rajabhat students were able to secure 6th place overall in the category and were congratulated by the 1st place team from Taiwan for surpassing expectations.
All three students are studying to become science educators, though this experience has taught them that there are other routes for their degrees.
“We would like to suggest [this competition] to junior students, if they would like to [compete in making robots]. Yes, we want to share this experience with our future students,” Jack added.