Robotics Team Travels to China
Places Second in the World Robotics Conference Tournament (Alliance Division)
The Daniel J. Gross High School VEX Robotics team, led by Mr. Steve Hamersky, left Omaha early Saturday morning (August 19th) and arrived in Beijing China, Sunday August 20, finally making it to their hotel around 9PM in Beijing (8AM Sunday morning in Omaha).
Aside from the long flight and a delay leaving San Francisco it was uneventful. Here is the first team photo from the lobby of their hotel.
Monday, the group headed to the Great Wall of China at Ju Yong Pass, one of the world’s great architectural wonders. Some on the tour visited most of the site, others saw just the first tower and took it easy to recover from the previous days travel.
They also had lunch at the Beijing Jade Carving Exhibition Center Restaurant, and on the way back stop for photo opportunities at some of the 2008 Olympic venues and ended the day by attending the Beijing Acrobatic Performance and dinner.
And yes, the smog in Beijing is as bad as reported; one commented that the forecast for the day was “partly cloudy” but in reality it was “completely overcast with a cloud of brown smog.” Some found the use of facemasks an appropriate health and fashion statement.
But once the group made it outside the city they said that the smog cloud cleared up and it was a beautiful countryside and park views.
Tuesday, they visited the Summer Palace, and saw the Pandas Zoo, then they had the afternoon off to work on homework (yes, it followed them!) and check-up on their robot for competition in a couple days. The team met with their hosts for the conference, and registered everyone to attend the Robotics Expo. Supper that night was for the adventurous as it included an insect of some sort on skewers – the exact name is unknown. One of the adults was brave enough to try it, but said that he couldn’t get the taste out of his mouth and this led to the entire team laughing and having a really good time together. Even their waitress admitted that she didn’t think they were very good either, so it must be an acquired taste.
Wednesday was a down day, so the they worked on their homework, then prepared their robot and had a scrimmage match against the other teams. After the scrimmage they headed to a more familiar place for supper, a local “Pizza Hut”. There were a few new toppings such as calamari and “Peking Duck”, but apparently most of the toppings were fairly normal – which was probably a good thing!
Thursday the team visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, toured a silk factory, and ended the night with a formal Duck Dinner. Mr. Hamersky says that this has been their best meal so far.
When the team returns, we need to find out where this set of equations was and what it was related to. (Equations: Newton’s law of universal gravitation: “F=Gm 1m2/r2“, Einstein’s mass–energy equivalence formula: “E=mc 2“, and what appears to be the Mean Value Theorem equation, “f(b)-f(a)=f'(c)(b-a)”)
Friday the actual tournament and conference started. The World Robot Conference (WRC) is huge with a week of many different student contests and two massive exhibition halls, one for consumer robotic companies and one for industrial companies. Everything from robotic toys and home assist robots to drones and large manufacturing robots. Over 150 companies in large scale displays of in a major Las Vegas type robotic show.
Our team was the first US team through robot inspection. US teams were not on the list so we hand wrote and were added. A total of 46 teams in the tournament. We arrived at 9AM, inspection at 10AM, visited the exhibits and had lunch, then had the first round of matches from 1PM until 5PM. The venue was a bit less conducive to spectators; there were not bleachers so anyone watching had to stand around the playing field.
Some of the exhibits they saw in the home robotics area had some impressive “butler” type designs. After walking the show floor, the team found some familiar and very tasty food for lunch– KFC! They were a sponsor at the show, and the kids really “ate them up”!
The team played well, lost by a slim margin in the first game, and lost against two very good Chinese teams that will likely be in the finals. Our robot ran well and the students worked hard. It was a good day. Out of the 46 teams, ten of the Chinese teams are very good, while the others are about where we are. Tomorrow we have four matches and the alliance selection, then the finals match on Sunday.
Oh, and guess who made it onto the Chinese state television show? Yes, that is our very own Mr. Hammersky on the left in the back row. There has been a lot of news coverage of the conference and coverage of the US teams attending. Abbigail is scheduled for an interview tomorrow to talk about robotic education in US and how they perceive it as different from their experiences here in China.
Saturday was the second day of competition and the team’s final ranking was finalized. Given the level of competition, the team came in 28 out of the 46 teams, close to the rankings of the other Omaha teams. In the end, Gross was chosen by the #1 seeded team in the competition, and two other Omaha teams (DC West and Benson) were also chosen for the final event. The team came to rely heavily on their interpreter, Zhang Fan, a sophomore at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
Sunday was the finals competition and the closing ceremonies where the winners are announced and receive their awards. The alliance team Gross was in did extremely well coming up through the quarterfinals levels. In the final round each side won one round each (best of three), but Gross’ alliance lost the final round only after a stack of cones fell over and cost them points. But perseverance pays off and their alliance came in second overall for the competition!
Monday, August 28th, the team leaves Beijing to fly back, arriving in Omaha at 9:30 PM.