Dean's Message
Spring 2013  No.23
We Love Robotics

The award-winning HKUST Robotics Team draws students from all levels and engineering departments across the School to design different types of robots and take part in international competitions. Five members describe how team membership has proved a life-changing experience

Chun Yin Leung
Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College
BEng in Computer Science 2011
MPhil student, Electronic and Computer Engineering

Fun and enterprise

Since joining the HKUST Robotics Team in 2009, Eric has been impressed by the tremendous support of HKUST students and cohesion within the team. He has found the team is not only a group project, it is similar to a family and this type of atmosphere creates higher morale and efficiency.

In this family, where everyone has different personalities and ways of thinking, Eric has learned to be more understanding and look at issues from other perspectives. He also thinks that "keeping it fun” is as important as working seriously.

After doing well in robotics competitions, Eric and teammates Henry and Tak (both also featured here) decided to try using their robotic knowledge to devise a business plan. "It was time to go to the next stage," he said. They went on to compete in two contests, receiving the First Runner-up place and the Hong Kong Technopreneur Award at the HSBC YDC Young Entrepreneur Challenge 2012, and gaining the Lenovo Innovation Award and a place in the finals of the 1st Asia Innovation Forum. Over 315 teams took part in the first contest and more than 235 teams in the second.

The students' business idea focused on a robot for underwater research, monitoring and investigations. To prepare for the business plan contests, they attended enrichment talks and entrepreneurship workshops organized by HKUST. Now their dream is to realize the plan, Eric said.

Lai Ying Kwok
CCC Kei Yuen College
BEng in Mechanical Engineering 2012
Trainee, Jetta Company Limited

Leadership and vision

As leader of the Robocon team taking part in the 2012 local and regional contests, Jackie was able to employ her passion and vision as well as strengthen her analytical skills. Indeed, one of the outstanding memories of taking part in such contests is the strong emotion – sometimes even tears – that team members experience following a victory, she said. “If you watch it on the television, you won't share the same feeling. Only when you are one of the participants can you understand the excitement, after one year's hard work."

In guiding the team ahead, Jackie expected members to learn how to present ideas and make convincing arguments, just as engineers would. Discussions not only embraced robotics but virtually anything. She also improved her decision-making capabilities as she had to compare the pros and cons of different ideas, not simply follow others as in the past.

Now, even though she has graduated, Jackie continues to advise and support the HKUST Robotics Team.

Lung Tak Ho
AD & FD POHL Leung Sing Tak College
BEng student, Computer Engineering

Independence and social skills

Before joining the HKUST Robotics Team, Tak was a quiet, retiring person. As team members are required to take an active role, at first he had to force himself to speak and ask more. Later, he found this to be a good change and became more willing to express his opinions. With the encouragement of senior members, he is now more outgoing.

He also found he gained much more than friends. Through training and competitions, Tak acquired presentation skills and greater independence. He had never previously thought of making a robot himself but through his work with the team, he discovered the power of passion to motivate him to achieve great things.

The first competition Tak took part in was held in Thailand, where he learned to treat the contest as an exchange of technical skills and culture. Another important turning point was the HKUST Robotics Team tradition of senior members teaching junior ones. Seeing the transformation of new members from knowing nothing to learning a great deal made a deep impression, he said.

Andreas Widy
Santa Laurensia Senior High School, Serpong, Indonesia
BEng student, Electronic and Computer Engineering

Personal challenge and persistence

Widy's enthusiasm for robotics started in junior high school, with a course on electronics which featured robotics as one of the topics. He became curious how simple electronic equipment could perform powerful functions. He was also fascinated by the usefulness of robots, for example, in moving objects around and collecting data.

Someone who always enjoys a challenge, Widy (as he is usually called) decided to apply to HKUST because he wanted to experience a new environment outside his home country of Indonesia. On starting at the University, the HKUST Robotics Team caught his attention. Although he initially had doubts about his knowledge of robotics, he learned from talking to team members that the basics would be taught.

It wasn't all straightforward at the beginning, but rather than give up, Widy tried to take part in meetings and basic work. Eventually, his efforts paid off. When he saw his robot functioning well, it brought a tremendous sense of achievement, he said.

Hoi Lam Chan
Buddhist Tai Hung College
BEng in Computer Engineering 2012
MPhil student, Electronic and Computer Engineering

Motivation and courage

In addition to obtaining great satisfaction from the HKUST Robotics Team's remarkable achievements, Henry has found his attitude toward life has also changed.

With numerous school projects to fit in and the Robocon Team internal competition all at the same time, it meant managing on three to four hours' sleep at night. Yet Henry persisted. "Giving up means an immediate end and instantaneous failure," he said. "If I never give up, I will succeed one day."

In addition, Henry has become more courageous in trying new approaches. "Creativity is unlimited. Through trial and error, we can find good alternatives, which can then be applied in competitions," he said.

Team Spirit

The School first competed in the Robocon Hong Kong Contest in 2004 and team members have since gone on to become leading contenders on the international robotics competitive circuit. The HKUST Robotics Team now encompasses four major areas — Robocon, Remotely Operated Vehicle, Smart Car and RoboCup — and more than 70 students under the guidance of team supervisor Prof Kam Tim Woo, Director of Global & Community Engagement Program. Additions to the HKUST Robotics Team family are always welcome.

The following are the awards acquired by the various teams in the second half of 2012:

2012 Competition Award Team
June Robocon Hong Kong Contest - Championship, Best Engineering Award, Best Artistic Design Award
- First Runner-up
Robocon teams
July 7th Freescale Smart Car Competition, South China Region Third Class Award Smart Car
July HSBC YDC Young Entrepreneur Challenge, Hong Kong Region First Runner-up and HK Technopreneur Award Remotely Operated Vehicle
July JEC Outstanding Engineering Project Second Runner-up Award Remotely Operated Vehicle
August ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest Best Idea Award Robocon
October 1st Asia Innovation Forum Young Entrepreneur Award Lenovo Innovation Award and Finalist Remotely Operated Vehicle
November 8th Challenge Cup for Entrepreneur Competition Gold Award Remotely Operated Vehicle