Doha College students took part in Qatar's recent annual Botball competition, run by Carnegie Mellon University. This is a very prestigious competition and is globally run by The KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (KIPR) in the United States.
Students were placed in teams of 10 and competed against other schools from around the country. They were given a "challenge brief" and provided with robots and Lego equipment, which they then used to build robots to complete the set challenges on a game board.
Using C programming language, the students programmed the robots to successfully perform specific functions. They worked closely together to plan a strategy that would allow them to maximise the amount of points they could gain. During this stage, the task was discussed at great length and there was a significant amount of problem-solving involved. As in any large team, different students favoured differing strategies, but ultimately they agreed on the best tactics to use.
The teams were scored in a number of different categories including "Seeding" (unopposed robots trying to score as many points as possible), "Double Elimination" (two teams running their robots simultaneously and try to score the most points while preventing the opposing team from scoring), and "Outstanding Documentation" (documenting the team's work on completing the robots, an important heading that determined one third of the overall score).
The students who took part were exposed to enquiry-based learning and developed very strong communication, analytical and problem-solving skills. Those responsible for building and programming the robots also developed their engineering design, computational thinking and programming skills. Subsequently, they had to make use of their applied Maths and Physics whilst problem-solving using ultrasonic, colour and touch sensors, which they used to enable their robots to complete their team objectives.
Mr Amash Mir, Head of ICT and Computer Science, explained how the Botball experience was beneficial for the students: "Robotics has a significant overlap with computer science, and to support the department in its aim of delivering a leading computer science education, Doha College offers both IGCSE and A-Level computer science. This gives students an ability to learn some of the fundamental principles behind computer science and also allows a much smoother transition to higher education in this and related fields. As a bonus, students can use the content learnt in these courses to help them compete in robotics competitions such as Botball and other national robotics competitions that we aim to enter in the future."
"Botball advanced my skills in programming, as I was driven to program in a new language. I also learnt a lot about cooperating with people who have contrasting views and ideas," said Dorde Popovic, one of the students who took part.
"There has emerged a global growth in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related careers and Robotics bridges the gaps between these disciplines and allows students to develop a strong holistic understanding of how to apply them in practical, real-life scenarios. Students learn valuable, team working, programming, analytical and problem solving skills that add value and increase their understanding of each of the four subjects" - Mr. Amash Mir, Head of ICT and Computer Science