Amid a barrage of criticism of the national education system and the recent dismal exam results, a team of Bandung-based university students this week brought home a gold medal from a prestigious international robot competition.
Team member Rodi Hartono, from the Indonesian Computer University, or Unikom, and his lecturer, Yusrila Kerlooza, received the honor of best performance with their robot, DU-114, in the “open fire-fighting autonomous robot” category at this year’s Robogames in San Francisco on April 24 and 25.
Rodi said it was the second time he had won with the same robot, but the challenge had been more difficult this year.
“More teams joined the competition this year,” he said. “They were all there with their upgraded robots.”
The DU-114, he said, had to walk through a labyrinth, which had candles placed in random positions. The robot had to spot the fires and extinguish them with an automated spray.
Rodi said the same robot had been used during the 2009 Robogames and they had spent the past year upgrading its software so it could spot random fires more quickly.
“The robot and software cost about Rp 10 million [$1,100] to make,” he said, adding that the cost of research made the total cost much more.
Unikom’s rector, Eddy Soeryanto Soegoto, said the university, together with the Ministry of National Education, would give each member of the team scholarships up to doctoral degree.
“They can pick whichever university they want,” he said.
But Rodi said he was unsure what his next step would after winning the competition, noting that scientific research was still often overlooked by the government and businesspeople.
“Most students and researchers keep entering and winning competitions,” he said, “but there is no follow-up from the government or industry that wants to use our creations.”
His said his personal aim in creating the robot had been to make it useful to assist less privileged people, including the disabled. “My motto is to create technology for peace, for humanity,” he said.
Rodi said he hoped all his creations, not only the DU-114, could be used by disabled people to help make their everyday lives easier.
“That’s why I hope someone will come forward who wants to work together with us,” the inventor said.
This year, 17 countries participated in the 7th Robogames, with 508 robots and 667 engineers competing against each other in 59 categories.
Eddy said Unikom was preparing about 30 students to compete in various robot competition in the coming year, including the next Robogames.
The biggest challenge, Rodi said, was the difference in the humidity in Indonesia and the United States, which had shortened the robot’s visibility.
“We will try to tackle this problem next year,” he said.