A Roboleague of Their Own: Youth-built robots to face off in Yangon on Saturday

Myanmar youth robotics team presenting at the Myanmar Convention Center via First Global Team Myanmar.
Myanmar youth robotics team presenting at the Myanmar Convention Center via First Global Team Myanmar.

Two years ago, a group of Myanmar youth made a name for themselves at the FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition in Washington DC, placing 6th out of 157 competing nations. On Saturday, some of the country’s best and brightest will get a chance to do a bit of showing off in their own backyard.

Seventy students, operating in teams of five, will compete in the inaugural Myanmar Roboleague, assembling robots from scratch, which will then face off with each other as they work to complete a variety of tasks for a panel of judges.

The competition, organized by tech incubator/NGO Phandeeyar alongside the Ministry of Education and its Rectors Committee, and co-funded by USAID, featuring competitors from across 14 states and regions, will be held in Yangon’s Thein Phyu Stadium. Phandeeyar told Coconuts Yangon that they made the selection for the Chin delegation based on their ethnicity, picking ethnic Chin students from universities in other states and regions because Chin State doesn’t have its own technological university.

“We wanted to open it up to young people from around the country, not just Yangon and Mandalay. Hosting a national competition would accomplish that,” Htoo Wai Htet, Phandeeyar’s “makerspace” (think “collaborative workspace”) manager, told Coconuts Yangon.

“Robotics requires teamwork and an interdisciplinary approach with engineering, mechanical design, electronics, and programming,” he added. “[Roboleague] will help students establish a national network of mentors and participants who can grow and learn from each other.”

While 13 of the teams involved represent specific universities, the 14th will be comprised of students from three different schools in Chin State.

The competition’s first-ever participants and mentors had to apply through a 90-minute online quiz that tested their technical skills (physics, math, mechanics, electronics, programming), logical reasoning, strategic thinking and communication skills.

After passing the quiz, the Phandeeyar team then conducted interviews with each of the teams, with only one team per state making the final cut.

At Saturday’s event, the robots they create will be put to the test over seven initial rounds, with the eight highest-scoring teams then competing in four more events before a winner is decided.

By the way, if you’re wondering whether or not any of that stellar group from 2017 will be competing, we’re afraid they’ve aged out of this particular competition.

“I want to encourage younger students to spectate these national competitions so that they could be inspired to join the field,” Htoo said.

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