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31 May 2023

Team Japan shares passion for robotics at FIRST Global Challenge

Photo: WAM


Following a tumultuous three weeks for their country, in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, Team Japan is grateful for the opportunity to dive into their shared passion for robotics and keep their minds occupied during the global robotics and Artificial Intelligence competition held in Dubai.

Organised by Dubai Future Foundation, the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai, running from 24th to 27th October 2019 at Festival Arena, brought together over 1,500 youths from 191 countries in a battle against ocean pollution.

The theme of the competition, "Ocean Opportunities: United by land, connected by oceans", gave the team food for thought, as they reflected on their own efforts and the difference it can make to the future. Rufoto Kobo, 16, who is the team’s engineer, said, "Considering everything that is happening in my country at present, the importance of robotics in our future fight against natural disasters is clearer to me now than ever before."

With the death toll in the heavy floods, landslides and torrential rains of the last three weeks climbing to 82, and some of the team’s friends’ homes being affected by the natural disaster, Team Japan continues to remain optimistic about the future.

Rufoto added, "I believe that our skill in building new robots and integrating Artificial Intelligence in our processes will provide the necessary damage control, in ways that have never been imagined before, and prove critical in our ability to deal with future hurricanes and natural disasters."

Team Japan has lost their opening two games, yet they remain upbeat about the event’s prospects. "Participating in a global event of this magnitude is such an immense learning opportunity. And even if all teams have designed a similar robot, in terms of purpose, it is incredible to observe the different iterations each team makes to their creations," Rufoto pointed out.

He also has words of praise for his peers from rival teams. "A huge shout out to Team China for the unique way they have programmed their robot to increase its height, allowing for the easier disposal of waste. We are definitely going to learn from that."

Being part of a team that has produced a robot on wheels, designed to help pick up litter and dispose of waste conveniently, Rufoto never thought his passion for robots would bring him to a global event in Dubai, along with his parents.

"My parents have been incredibly supportive of my dreams, and them being here is an amazing moment for me," he noted.

The young techie added, "Since I was six, I would religiously watch local college robot competitions and anime aired on local TV. Cooped up in my room, building mini-robots, my parents would always drop in and talk to me about what part of my ‘creation’ is great and what may require further tweaking."

One day, Rufoto plans to build bionic arms and legs for amputees, especially those that have suffered in the plethora of natural disasters that have wreaked havoc on Japan in the past several years. It is safe to assume that the future of Japan is bright, especially in the young and capable hands of Rufoto, and many more like him who share a passion for technology and in shaping a better tomorrow.