China's first combat robot competition wins many fans

Updated 2017-04-17 10:01:16 Global Times
“Enthusiasts

Enthusiasts try their hand at robot combat.

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A boy imitates a robot.

"Come on! Come on! Yes!" shouted the audience.

Eyes glued to the stage, they were watching Major League FMB (Fighting My Bots), the first ever combat robot competition in China. Held in Beijing on the weekend of April 8 and 9, the competition saw 12 clubs competing for top honors. To win, their robots needed to either knock out their opponent's robot or get a higher performance score than their opponent in a three-minute, one-on-one fight.

Although some Chinese are fans of Western combat robot shows, such as Britain's Robot Wars and the US' BattleBots, this was the first time that they got to see the combat firsthand, and they seemed really engrossed in the battles.

Getting into the game

Fresh off their win on the morning of April 9, the five members of Shanghai club Sixth Universe Speed crowded around a screen that showed a live feed from the fighting area where a game between their soon-to-be opponent and another team was taking place.

They wanted to check out what their opponent's robot could do before their robot The Railgun went up against it in the afternoon.

At the end of the event, The Railgun had won four matches in a row and nabbed first place.

The five members behind the robot are all from the Shanghai Manufacturing and Robotics Laboratory at Shanghai University.

They started to make robots at the end of last year, and it took them about two months to prepare for the competition, including designing and assembling the robot.

Tong Zhaodong, one of the five members and the designer in the team, conceded that there were a few challenges while he was designing the robot.

The biggest one, he said, was a lack of parts and equipment to build with, as the competition was the first of its kind in China, which meant that it was hard to find professional equipment.

He added that the robot was so heavy that it took three of them to lift it.

"It has great destructive force, unlike some of the robots in other previous showcases that could be lifted by one person and were not very powerful," he said.

According to the team leader Huang Zhihui, he and his teammates decided to participate in the competition because they wanted to stand out from other laboratories and institutions that mostly use robots as a gimmick to get the public's attention.

"What we are trying to do is to combine learning with production and research," he said.

Yang Shouchen, another team member, agreed. He said the team is attempting to put theory into practice.

Besides combat robots, they have also worked hard to build other kinds of robots, such as service robots, flexible robots and medical robots, hoping to make a contribution to society.

Lu Jingjing, the CEO of Shanghai club Guanghuan, founded the club at the beginning of 2017 out of her interest in and great passion for robots.

It took her and her team members around three months to prepare their robot Azure Dragon for the competition.

She enjoyed the event a lot and thinks that it could attract young people.

"It is very interesting," she said. "It is a brilliant opportunity not only for excitement but also for brainstorming, as entrants study both their own robots and those of the other teams while competing."

As the only female participant, Lu said she hopes to expand the perceptions of what women can do in society.

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