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Day Creek’s World Robot Olympian

William traveled to Dortmund, Germany to compete in the WRO robotics competition.
Jialin Dai
William traveled to Dortmund, Germany to compete in the WRO robotics competition.

Imagine working through countless challenges, until finally, out of hundreds of competitors, you receive news that you’ve been chosen for the final competition in the world. This trial will test your ability to create adaptive robots, as well as code them to their absolute limits. This was the reality for Day Creek student William W., a national robotics competitor at the World Robot Olympiad.

After facing many preliminary challenges, William was invited to the WRO international robotics final in Europe. While in Dortmund, Germany, he faced an environment he’d never seen before. 

“When I got to Germany, it was a new experience. Everyone there was different. I got to meet people from 83 different countries,” said William.

The competition itself was also unique in its format. “It lasted longer, and it was more well organized. There were a lot more people [that were] gathered from many different countries,” said William.

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The competition also included special events, and it was hosted in a stadium. 

“There were other events for the families there. In America, we just did the competition, but in Germany we used the [Dortmund] stadium. People from Dortmund came and set up booths. It was kind of like a carnival,” said William.

The robotics competition included multiple distinct trials. “You would build your robot, then program it to complete tasks on the game board,” said William.

The board was where the action and competitive coding took place.

“It’s a [big] mat with walls on all four sides. There was an area to start your robot and tasks for your robot to complete,” said William.

In order to get points, William’s robot needed to complete multiple missions. The overall theme of the tasks was to save people from a factory fire.

“Our goal was to save people. The model was [similar to] a factory. Your [robot would] go in and try to detect people. When [it] got out of the factory, you would mark the [people]. There were also fires that you had to put out with a water block and chemicals you had to put in a containment zone,” said William.

The competition included a bit of surprise in how the pieces’ positions differed each time.

“There were five different objects randomized into twelve positions. You get to know what the board looks like, but the placements of game objects are random. You get to code and build your robot beforehand. You have to make sure that the robot can adapt to many situations,” said William.

Throughout the tournament, William spent the remainder of his time recuperating at a hotel in preparation for the next day. There was little time for rest or touring, as competition lasted late into each evening.

“You gotta wake up really early in the morning. [We had to wake up] at 6 o’clock, sometimes 5, because breakfast starts at 6am. You [have] to finish breakfast by 8am, and the competition is all the way until 8pm,” said William.

William’s team faced no shortage of adversity. Many competitors wanted to make sure their robot was working before entering the boards.

 “It was stressful because you had a really short time period and everyone was rushing to the game tables to test their robot first,” said William.

Unfortunately, on the first day of competition, William’s robot broke down. 

“When we got there, our robot messed up because of the game table, so we had to improvise. [My team and I] ran [the robot] from Bluetooth and then we forgot it was running and it just [fell] off the table,” said William.

As a result, William’s team didn’t get a good score on the first day, though this didn’t stop them from continuing.

After the competition, his team met to fix their robot. “[We had to] get back to the hotel to remodel [our] robot,” said William, “We reserved the meeting room, changed our robot, and ran it around.” 

Despite the initial turmoil, his team adjusted and did better on the next day. 

“We didn’t get a good score on the first day, but the second day was better. We bounced back,” said William.

Although his team did not win the competition, he was pleased to experience a new country as well as the diversity throughout the robotics tournament.

“The best part was getting to meet new people. On the second day there was a souvenir exchange, so I [met] new people from other countries.  I got to see their cultures and talk to them. It’s not something you would normally experience. It’s in a completely different country. It was cool,” said William

This story was originally published on The Day Creek Howl on January 24, 2023.