I can not recall any interest in robotics during my school time, and even until I graduated from the university. It was not until I attended a workshop at Bangkok that I started to have my interest in robotics. That was in May 2000. It was the “Regional Workshop on Industrial Applications of Control Technology: Mechatronics” conducted at the Thai-French Innovation Center, Bangkok, Thailand. During the workshop, I had the opportunity to see some robotic projects and visited some of their mechatronic facilities. Though brief, they were interesting exposures for me. In addition, the Indonesian participant in the workshop shared his experience in robotic projects. With his active participation in international robotic competitions, he has developed relationship and collaboration with researchers from Japan. Something that I would dream for. Few months later, in Sep 2000, I saw an exhibition of a Singapore university at the 1st APEC Youth Camp held at Ulsan, Korea. The Singapore university exhibited a student project on obstacle avoidance robot. That was interesting and more importantly seem doable for us! With these exposures, I initiated a project in Obstacle Avoidance Vehicle in the following year. It was a modification to a remote control car and wasn’t really close to a ‘robot’. Nevertheless, an important start. I still remember the student vividly. Lee Kin Foo is the first student who worked on my robotic project. It was with Kin Foo that I learned to use the Eagle PCB Layout Editor and the Microchip PIC microcontroller.
One day in January 2003, I was called to the Principal’s office. Cikgu Nazamshah, the Principal at that time, passed me two Takraw balls and asked if I would like to participate in the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) Robot Contest (Robocon). Could this be a dream come true? Participation in an international (well, regional to be more specific) robotic competition?! I understand the balls reached MKJB, a college, after other local higher institutions declined to participate. I knew we only had about six months to work on it, from scratch. However, it was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss. Without appropriate facility and without relevant knowledge and experience, apart from the Obstacle Avoidance Vehicle, we then had to make robots that would stand at 3 metres high. I picked my army and kicked start the project. Seven men, months of sleepless nights, we ventured into the Robocon! We shivered when we saw the others’ robots in the given demo CD. We were uncertain if we would make it to the competition as we were searching for parts and ideas, while others were creating and improving their robots. However, we persisted. It was this persistence that made us to carry Brunei’s flag, for the first time, in an international robotic competition.
Since then we, at MKJB, continued to work on robotic projects, as well as other engineering projects. Over the years, Jemee has became my best team mate after Terry moved to Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd. As I try to learn more on robotics, my interest in it also grows. MKJB has represented Brunei in ABU Robocon for five consecutive years, and was unbeatable in Robocon locally. I participated, with my teams, in Robocon 2003, 2005 and 2006. I missed Robocon 2004 as I was at UK doing MSc. I joined UBD in March 2007. After two years in UBD, I managed to start up robotics in the Faculty of Science (FOS) and set up a simple robotic lab. With a few students, we worked on Robocon and a few other robotic projects.
The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Robot Contest (ABU Robocon)
Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) Robocon is an annual robot contest starting from 2002, just for university/college students in the Asia-Pacific region. Under a common set of rules, participants will compete with their peers in other countries to create robots using their creative and technological abilities in an open competition. This contest aims to create friendship among young people with similar interests who will lead their countries in the 21st Century, as well as help advance engineering and broadcasting technologies in the region. This event will be broadcast in participating countries through an ABU member broadcaster. In Brunei Darussalam, Radio Television Brunei is a member broadcaster in ABU.
The changing theme of Robocon each year introduces new challenges each year. Overcoming new challenges is a way to make progress. Having to work in conformation to the preset requirements/rules, rather than setting own requirements to work on, is what makes Robocon a tough challenge.
ABU Robocon 2002: “Reach for the top of Mt. Fuji”
31 Aug 2002 | Tokyo, Japan
This was the first ABU Robocon. RTB attended the event, however there was no Brunei participation.
The year we learned about the ABU Robocon when the Science, Technology and Environment Partnership (STEP) Center in the Ministry of Education approached MKJB to solicit Brunei participation. This was the first time Brunei participated in Robocon. Brunei was represented by the SAMOT team from MKJB. Imagine driving a 25kg machine with 3V motors. Well, that was how we started. Despite being a really tough task, the SAMOT team gave their full commitment to deliver the robots. These robots had to pass stringent tests before they were allowed to play on the field. At Bangkok, Brunei drawn to play against Malaysia (represented by Univesiti Teknologi Malaysia) and Korea (represented by Chungnam National University). Both teams were much stronger than us, and would easily beaten us. However, due to an accidental contact by the manual operator of the Korean team with our manual robot, the Korean team was disqualified and Brunei declared winner in this match. It wasn’t how we wanted to win a match.
The second year MKJB represented Brunei at ABU Robocon. Another local institution, Sultan Saiful Rijal Technical College (or Maktab Teknik Sultan Saiful Rijal MTSSR) expressed interest in participating and an informal local competition (or selection) was held. MKJB’s robots appeared more convincing to the judges and was selected to represent Brunei at Seoul. This year, SAMOT team from MKJB played against Chungnam National University of Korea (again!) and Academic Center for Education Culture and Research of Iran. Despite having builded much better robots than the previous year, the opponent teams proved to be much stronger than us. We have a great deal to improve. I did not supervise the SAMOT team in 2004. SAMOT 2004 was supervised by Norjemee.
SAMOT team again defeated the team from MTSSR in a well organized local competition held at the auditorium of MTSSR. With extra-ordinary committment and determination from this year’s team members, SAMOT’s robots had seen great improvement. Five autonomous robots, fitted within an area of 1x1m, and one manual robot were builded. The team was determined to win at Beijing. Well. When we drawn to play against Vietnam and China in the preliminary round, we knew we were given tough challenge again. Vietnam is a three times champion in Robocon (was two times by 2005). Vietnam was represented by Hanoi University of Technology. China was represented by University of Scinece & Technology Beijing (and another team) which ended as 1st runner up in Robocon 2005. Despite losing to both teams, SAMOT had shown its great potential and was awarded the Toyota Award.
10 Sep 2006 | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Another year SAMOT team represented Brunei at ABU Robocon after defeating its local opponent from MTSSR. This is the first year when a full game field was build for the local competition. At the local competition, the SAMOT team achieved SIAP in 1 minute 27 seconds! After three years of experience, SAMOT’s robots have became stable and reliable. Various technical problems were resolved. Mechanical aspect remained our major weakness as the SAMOT team had been comprised of members from the Department of Electrical and Instrumentation Engineering. At Kuala Lumpur, SAMOT was again tested with tough matches in the preliminary round. Brunei drawn to play against Multimedia University of Malaysia and Xi’an Jiaotong University of China. We lost both matches. Xi’an Jiaotong University later emerged as the 2nd runner up, while Multimedia University received the Best Engineering Award. Further hard works on our side are definitely needed to beat teams from major universities (and higher institutions) around the region.
I moved to UBD in 2007. SAMOT team in 2007 was lead by Jemee. There was no local competition in 2007. SAMOT represented Brunei at ABU Robocon for 5th consecutive year. At Hanoi, SAMOT played against Kanazawa Institute of Technology of Japan and University of Peradeniya from Sri Lanka in the preliminary round. This year saw Brunei’s first winning match at ABU Robocon. SAMOT team defeated the team from Sri Lanka. The Japan team later received the Best Engineering Award.
Brunei did not participate. There was no participating team.
Five years back, in MKJB, I started with a reasonably large workshop floor space, basic tools, few great fighters, however without prior experience. In UBD, I am starting with some experience, however with uncertainty in floor space, facilities and the army. After a year working in UBD, I started Robocon project in UBD. The two biggest challenges were space and army. With the support from the faculty, I could overcome the problem of facilities. I wasn’t sure if we would have a space to do the project. We started at any space we could use. Significantly more challenging was I was not sure if I would get good fighters.
Did UBD make it to ABU Robocon 2009? Yes, but not …
I managed to put up a team of seven students to kick off with the Robocon project in UBD. Getting ‘fighters’ for Robocon proved to be a challenge in UBD. We started in Dec 2008 during the semester break. Working space was a challenge and I booked the lecture room FSM 2.15/2.16 in the Faculty of Science (FOS) building.
The technical challenge appeared to be a completely new one. It required that the three robots are physically connected – two robots carry one robot in a carriage (‘Kago’). The game field incorporated a ‘hill’ requiring the robots to travel up and down slopes. Balancing the three robots (including one being carried in between) while going up and down slopes posed the greatest difficulty to start with. An idea was finally arrived at and the first prototype was build during this semester break. The team used the lecture room FSM 2.17 to test the line tracing of the first prototype. Towards the end of the semester break, only four students remained in the team. Three of the initial seven students decided to pull out from the highly demanding project. It was partly anticipated. Only ‘fighters’ who wanted to prove themselves can survive the demand of Robocon project.
New semester started in Jan 2009 and we had to move out of the lecture rooms. Having no alternative, we moved into my shared office at the HEP (student affairs) building. We used one vacant cubicle to put our stuff. This became the “Hong’s Robotic Cubicle” in UBD. It measures at about 3x3m. The office is probably about 17x8m partitioned into 9 cubicles. The game field required a clear space of 12×12.6m. To test the robots, we used the remaining walking space, where mountain pass and tracks were laid. The walkway outside the office and the benches in front of the ATM machines outside the office had became workshop where the team worked with metal pieces. The team persisted to continue working on the robots.
The two carrier robots were eventually completed and more problems were identified. A redesign was done. The robots were eventually able to travel through the mountain pass, individually. However, when they were connected (by the ‘Kago’) we have not been able to coordinate their speed. Time flies. It was soon the next semester break and fast approaching the anticipated local competition. The two robots were still having problems – mainly mechanical. Added to the challenge, staff in the HEP office were asked to move to another building. We had to move our stuff to the previous UNISSA building. We were concerned of the time lost when every minute was counting. On the other hand, we were delighted to be given a big lab – G.38. This became the first “Robotic Lab” in UBD, unofficially. It is my Robolab V1. The lab measures around 7x6m capable of accommodating half of the game field. The hard work continued in this ‘new’ robotic lab.
We were not able to fix the problems of the robots when travelling up the slope. Mechanical aspect remained our major weakness. The team could only get through the slope in very few times and had not been able to complete the game within 3 minutes. The local competition was on 13 Jun and two teams were to compete for the opportunity to represent Brunei at ABU Robocon at Tokyo, Japan. We competed with the all time local champion, Jefri Bolkiah College of Engineering (JBCE or MKJB). Robots from both were having similar problems – boarding and crossing. At the time of whistle ending the game, our team’s robots were attempting to cross the mountain pass while our opponent’s robots were struggling with boarding task. Our team won the local competition, merely.
As like in previous years, the team continued to improve the robots while waiting for approval from the Ministry to compete at the ABU Robocon at Tokyo, Japan. Rather unfortunately, due to the H1N1 situation, the relevant authority ‘cancelled’ our participation at Tokyo … It was a disappointment to the team, who has worked hard days and nights … The team was deprived the opportunity to meet and learn from other teams. Nevertheless, the team has proved themselves winners in UBD, in Brunei.
Coming soon …