The Singapore Robotic Games (SRG) is the de facto robotics competition in Singapore, when the brightest and best in robotics technology pit their skills in various competition categories. But beneath the glory, glitz and gold, lie the sweat, blood and hard work that not many know of. Electronics student Zhong Bing Chen, who competed in 2 categories of the SRG, shares his experience.
Bing Chen (front left) with his “Intelligent Robot” team mates and supervisors
I enrolled to Temasek Polytechnic’s Common Engineering Programme (CEP) in April 2013, to kick start my Polytechnic life. I chose CEP as I was still undecided at that point, and CEP gave me the flexibility and more time to decide on the diploma to specialise in. The common first year gave me a good intro to topics related to different fields. With that broader perspective, I opted to stream into the Diploma in Electronics in my second year.
When I was in the Diploma in Electronics, I had the chance to display my skills and talents through different means. Through my years of studying in Temasek Polytechnic (TP), I have done well in the field of robotics and even represented TP in the annual Singapore Robotics Games (SRG) 2016! The SRG is one of Singapore’s most prestigious and comprehensive robotics competition and it really requires a high level of expertise and superior programming skills to win just one medal (not to mention Gold)!
I felt a sense of pride and achievement when I was actually selected to participate in the SRG! I felt like my skills were recognised by my supervisors and I was really thankful to have been given this chance, participating in the “Intelligent Robot” and the “Legged Robot Marathon” categories.
For the Intelligent Robot category, we decided to use our very own robot, named “TP Hulk”. The robot was designed by my seniors for their Major Project (MP); it’s battle-hardened, having been through various SRG competition’s and brought glory to the school! I was initially afraid to be handling such an important robot, cos I was afraid that I would accidentally destroy an amazing piece of work. Thankfully, I had the help of my MP group mates and the guidance of our supervisors, Mr Shi Weixiong, Mr Lee Keng Hong and Mr Ng Yong Seng.
The intelligent robot, “TP Hulk”
For the Intelligent Robot category, we are required to design and build either a single or multiple autonomous robot to collect 25 objects in a competition arena. The objects consist of 9 yellow balls, 7 blue empty steel cans and 9 red boxes. The robot has to collect and deposit the objects into 3 different containers according to their respective colours -- all within 6 minutes! There’s no human intervention, mind you! The competition arena is divided into 10 sectors and two objects are randomly placed in each sector.
It was actually quite pressurizing for us throughout this whole competition as TP has been the champion for this category for 7 years in a row! Can you believe it? I was initially shocked when I heard about it as well. My team and I were really worried that we would lose and an awesome immaculate record would have crashed. On competition day, when our turn came, I was really anxious. Once we pressed the “start” button on the robot, it was supposed to start moving within 30 seconds or else we would have failed. So we were really nervous. Thankfully, after a slight pause, “TP Hulk” took off! Whew! After picking the objects on the floor, the robot had to drop the objects into the appropriate container depending on the colour. (The colour of the object and the container must match!) What if “TP Hulk” failed to detect an object? Or what if it dropped the object into the wrong container? What if it suddenly developed colour blindness? It was a really tough and uneasy fight. My team and I were really stressed throughout the event. Thankfully, everything went well, and we really felt a sense of relief. Mission accomplished, and we won the Gold award! We’ve extended our record to Gold for 8 consecutive years!
Next, we had to complete the “Legged Robot Marathon” category. We had to design a Legged Robot to travel on a designated track by walking, running or hopping on a flat terrain for a total distance of approximately 29 meters. Our robot, named “SXF”, was designed and programmed by my team mate Wang Yi Ming and me. Using an earlier robot, we modified its parts and reprogrammed it. There were so many things to do, keeping in mind that I had to work on the other “TP Hulk” as well! It was a really tiring journey for us. We had to burn the midnight oil and stayed back in school late on most days to do troubleshooting. But our supervisors, Mr Ong Eng Huat, Mr Shen Xue Feng, Mr Yeo Chau Tiong, and Mr Ng Yong Seng, gave us good guidance with their expertise. After 8 months, our “child” was born!
The legged robot, “SXF”
During the race we had so many concerns and what “ifs”. What if “SXF” veered off course? What if the battery stops running? What if the robot’s legs gave way? Thankfully, our worries proved unfounded. “SXF” won the Gold award.
Through this competition, I have gained much experience. The experience I got was totally different from being in an internship or job. It was much more fulfilling as well. I have not only enhanced my technical skills, but also learnt about leadership and team work. Best of all, with my team, we kept motivating one another and provided encouragement to continue and strive to complete our task. So I‘ve learnt that determination and perseverance pay golden dividends!
Looking back, we had our disagreements too, of course. But I am very thankful to have had understanding team mates who listen and are patient. On days when we had our fights, we learnt about proper people management and how to work together as a team. Come to think of it, all the late nights and long hours we spent have been actually all worth it. I feel like a proud father of two golden boys. This experience would easily go down as my most memorable experience in TP. Thank you, TP, for giving me this chance to take part in the SRG. And thanks to all my supervisors and team mates who helped to make this happen.
Bing Chen (front right) with his “Legged Robot” team mates and supervisors