CityU and WWF hold Hong Kong's first ever underwater robot challenge

Jenny Kwan

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Sixteen local secondary schools have taken part in the final of Hong Kong's first ever underwater robot challenge, raising interest in robotic technology and marine conservation.

The final of the competition, which was jointly organized by WWF and City University of Hong Kong (CityU), took place on 9 April in CityU's swimming pool.

After stiff competition from the competing finalists, Shau Kei Wan Government Secondary School took first place.

The winning team had to complete two tasks in 25 minutes. The students first had to place a carton into another carton that was held under the water, and then use a robotic arm to release the key to an underwater buoy, making it a float to the surface.

Mr Eric Bohm, the CEO of WWF Hong Kong, said WWF was pleased to organize such innovative underwater robot competition with CityU. "We hope the competition can further enhance the concept of marine conservation among young scientists and inspire the application of scientific technology in marine conservation programmes to protect our precious marine heritage," he said.

Professor Richard Ho, Vice-President (Undergraduate Education), said the underwater robotic challenge was a great way of fulfilling the University's commitment to new technology. "CityU is very keen on researching

new technology for different aspects of social application and passing the technology on to younger generations," he said.

The technical consultant for the competition, Dr Robin Bradbeer, an associate professor in the Department of Electronic Engineering (EE), said she was excited to see so much enthusiasm. "After two months of pre-competition training and learning, students have acquired some knowledge about robotic technology and marine conservation. We hope the

next generation can also learn the technological know-how and a sense of conservation through our competition," she said.

The contest attracted applications from Form 4 to Form 7 students at 16 local secondary schools. The organizers provided each team with a basic robot module free of charge and held workshops at CityU on how to build an underwater robot and modify the basic design to accomplish the required tasks.

There was also a visit to the WWF's Hoi Ha Wan Marine Life Centre in Sai Kung where students observed coral from a glass-bottomed boat and had the chance to control a real underwater robot.

CityU has worked closely with WWF since 2003 and runs a lab at the WWF centre in Sai Kung where it uses underwater robots to monitor the underwater environment, coral ecology and its surrounding marine life.

For details about Hong Kong Underwater Robot Challenge, please visit the event website: http://www.ee.cityu.edu.hk/rovcontest/

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