Thousands of miles from home, some of Chile’s brightest were showing the world the creativity that is sparking the Andean nation’s innovation boom.
The Corazón del Chileno team, made up of 33 students from the Universidad Andrés Bello, made the trip to St. Louis, USA last month to compete in the 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition, an event that challenges teams of teens to build a robot that can perform a certain task, and outperform competing designs.
This year’s challenge was handball. The teams, made up of 13-18 year olds from around the world, were given basic materials and tasked with building a machine that weighed less than 120 pounds that could play handball. Teams would then form an alliance with two other groups to create a handball team of three robots. To win this year’s tournament, dubbed Aerial Assist, the robots would have to out maneuver their counterparts, performing tasks like picking up the ball, catching, passing, and, of course, scoring.
Corazón del Chileno’s team captain, Leonel Lagos, told El Mercurio how the Chilean team were hoping to improve their own robot, named El Alacrán (The Scorpion)
“One of our problems is that the process of picking the ball up from the ground has been slow. We’ve had to deal with our system, which is a claw. Using a wall to pick up the ball proved the quickest method,” Lagos said. “So we’re seeing how we can improve on that.”
The team was hoping to build off of their success at a previous tournament in Los Angeles where they were awarded prestigious Chairman’s Award for embracing the spirit of the event. Although they did not take home any medals from the St. Louis competition, just reaching this international level and working on such a creative and innovative challenge was a great experience for all involved.
“All members of the team come from different socioeconomic levels and different cultures,” team member Gladys RIvera, 17, told The Santiago Times. “Everyone learns from each other and you become a better person.”