The 2019 Robomaster Robotics Competition finished up in August. “Team Meta” from ZJUI tied with the Japanese Fukuoka United University team for fifth place in the international regional competition. The robots that Team Meta developed also received a design award. At the international regional competition, participants from 17 universities showed off their work. In addition to ZJUI, other teams included Virginia Tech, Washington University, Purdue University, and Hong Kong University. Although only the top four teams move on the the international finals, fifth place was a tremendous first-time results for the ZJUI undergrads.
The RoboMaster Competition is a robotic competition for young engineers all over the world. It is jointly organized by DJI, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, the National Federation of Students, and the Shenzhen Government. This robot shooting competition is famous for its impressive audio-visual impact and tough competitive style. It has attracted the attention of hundreds of universities, nearly one thousand high-tech companies and thousands of technology enthusiasts around the world. The competition requires the participants to go beyond the classroom, form a team, and independently develop and produce a variety of robots. The competition focuses on the comprehensive practical engineering practice abilities of the team members. It integrates robot-related technologies such as machine vision, embedded system design, mechanical control, inertial navigation, and human-computer interaction. It combines engineering work with an X-sports environment for an intense, exciting set of events.
“Meta is the biggest dark horse in this international reginal competition.”
Faced with high-intensity competition and many more experienced teams, Team Meta overcame a wide range of difficulties. Contest staff called them "The biggest dark horse in this competition." Meta showed themselves up to the tasks, matching the strong Fukuoda team. In a suspenseful match, they persevered in the last few seconds in the game against the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool team. The editorial liaison officer pointed out that "Zhejiang-UIUC did not lose their mind in the high-frequency game, from which they can be definitely viewed as a strong team." The organizing committee acclaim the robots developed by Meta, and awarded them with the team design award for their sentinel robot.
The competition semifinal match against a veteran University of Washington team was the epitome of Meta’s hard work. After being defeated by a fierce attack from the U.W. team in the first round, team Meta adjusted their tactics in the second round to use a defense bonus and try out guerrilla tactics. They seized an opportunity while the opponents were reloading, and caused a lot of damage, ultimately winning. In the third and final round, the U.W. robot still had problems but ZJUI students were patient. They waited for the opponent to fall into the encirclement. In the end, team Meta won the third round, and the match, with a strong sweeping move that more than doubled the U.W. damage points.
Student Liu Zikai, who lead control efforts for team Meta, said, "Compared with teams that have gathered relatively strong technical prowess, we still have a lot of shortcomings. This game really needs technical prowess. We don't have many advantages, but we are not afraid of tigers. We don’t have any burdens, but we work hard and never give up."
“We are familiar with one or two o'clock in the morning.”
For this competition, many ZJUI students have been preparing for more than a year. Because it is a new team, in addition to developing their robots from scratch, team members also need to deal with development, recruitment, and team management. Compared with mature teams that have been participating for many years, Meta's workload is high. They sought to participate in 2018, but it was just too early.
Talking about the experience of more than a year in preparation, Meta’s captain Han Tianyi admitted that “It’s common for us to stay in the lab until one or two in the morning. At the beginning, security guards often came to us and ask why didn’t we go back to the dormitory by midnight, but gradually the they got used to our lab that is often active almost all night.” Because the college curriculum at ZJUI is full, team members must carve out spare time to complete their research, development, production, strategic deployment, team promotion, and other tasks. Almost all members chose to use their summer vacation period to facilitate discussion, research and development. Some key milestone deadlines conflict with ZJUI's midterm and final exam times. Despite these difficulties, the players try to balance learning and team activities. In the end, they were able to go from scratch to a significant success. Meta also differs from other teams in student level. The team is composed almost entirely of sophomore and a few junior students, while other teams consist mainly of juniors and seniors. Some teams even have graduate students. The embedded design programming content is not a classroom exercise and requires a higher level of expertise.
“Results are not the most important; participation and growth are key”
Team captain Han Tianyi says that "Results are not the most important part. Participation and growth are key. If I join a strong team that has a good foundation today, I may be able to get good results with less time and energy. However, if that is the case I think the benefits will not be as much as what I got with Meta. Just because we started from scratch, we all relied on our own exploration, and what we got is more valuable than a final result. I am very fortunate to be able to find students who share similar interests in college and will continue to love their robots and participate in such competitions."
In order to transcend their limitations, team Meta took the initiative to learn from two teams at Zhejiang University to study their experiences and get their help. Through the warm-up match in April, they met outstanding teams such as the Guangdong Taiwan Chung Cheng University and maintained communication with them. They have opportunities to exchange ideas with students from top universities. They saw the deep commitment of the American team and also the unique design ideas of the Fukuoka team. Internal discussion and communication between teams inspired them to formulate more interesting ideas and improve their communication and teamwork skills.
Liu Zikai said that "Compared to strong teams, we still have a lot of deficiencies, such as our robot performance needs to improve, the hit rate is too low, the stability is not good, and the tactics are not as good as the others..." Talking about their own shortcomings, Liu Zikai had plenty more to consider. He is ready for the team to learn, further strengthen their robots, improve team discipline and management, and try to be exceptional.
Han Tianyi and Liu Zikai also thanked those who have helped Meta: "For today's achievements, we must especially thank the team members for their persistent efforts and the two teams from Zhejiang University who are generous and helpful. We are grateful to our instructors including Vice Dean Ma Hao and Professors Cui Jiahuan, Yang Liangjing and Mark Butala. Thanks to Prof. Cui for attending our regular meeting every time and helping us to control the progress of the time. We sincerely thank all the instructors for their help and thanks to the institute for providing lab space and funding."
At the international regional competition, 19 out of the 30 team Meta members were able to attend the match. They gained valuable practical skills and strategic thinking through the competition by combining theory with practice. Let us express congratulations to all members of the Meta team, and hope that they will continue to seek excellence in 2020.
Meta photo with Fukuoka and Guangdong Taiwan Chung Cheng University team