The Romanian robotics team AutoVortex won 1st place at the International Robotics Championship in the United States, Utah.
The competition is for teams of high school students, who build a robot, program it, then place it in the ring to compete against others. In the ring, robots must complete a set of tasks within a certain amount of time. The team with the most points wins. The objective of the contest is for teenagers to discover robotics and AI while having fun.
The high school students of the AutoVortex team are: Andrei Ianis Midache, Theodor Adrian Vasile, Radu Gabriel Dascălescu, Maria Ioana Dicu, Adrian Florin Hănțescu, Elena Maria Vasile and Răzvan Iacob Milea.
The team is coached by Valentin Ionuț Panea, professor of finance at the University of Economic Studies in Bucharest (ASE), and supervised by Ana Andreea Lipianu, student at the Politehnica University of Bucharest.
Romania’s AutoVortex robotics team has already won several awards: it won first place at last year’s International Robotics Championship in Chicago, which marked the first time since 1989 that a team from outside the United States USA won 1st place in the championship, 1st in the International Robotics Championship in Libya, which took place earlier this year, in Tripoli, and again 1st place in the International Robotics Championship in Jamaica.
Coach Valentin Panea spoke to News.ro about the path to victory:
“This is the third robot variant. The first variant we used in Libya at the beginning of the year, where we managed to take 1st place. We had to move very quickly for this competition, and the robot we ended up with was not exactly the model we wanted.
Then we went to Jamaica with the second version of the robot, again we won 1st place, but the robot was quite heavy, it often broke down and there was not much fun to compete with it.
After that, we built a smaller robot – much more compact, much more agile. We managed to program it from scratch. For a month and a half we had been working day and night in the Politehnica hub.
Last year we were the first team in the world, we managed to win first place in Chicago, and we didn’t want to do worse this year, so we worked hard for this competition.
At first, when we arrived, the American children thought we had no chance – when you see a little robot, you’re not afraid of it – but we ended up beating them all.”
Other team members shared their favorite things about participating in this contest:
Ana Lipianu, team mentor: “My favorite moment in the competition was when another team wanted an extra game. They really wanted to play us and we managed to score 304 points together. It was a very nice moment because that team idolized us a bit – they still wanted to play with us, even though they lost to us.”
Ioana Dicu: “My favorite part of the competition was the first day when kids from other teams came to befriend us. We exchanged experiences and they invited us to play games with them. J thought that was very kind of them. The competition atmosphere was extremely pleasant and we had a great time.
Milea Răzvan Iacob: “I really liked that in addition to the contest, the organizers also organized courses where we could learn new ways of programming – the robots can be programmed in several programming languages, and we were able to see how they approach the subject.
I also liked the fact that the team we faced in the final already knew everything about us even before we put the robot on the field. They had watched our previous matches. I didn’t think they would be interested in Romanian teams.”
Unfortunately, as has been the case with all other competitions the AutoVortex team has entered, the costs associated with attending the event (such as transportation and accommodation) were covered exclusively by parents and private companies sponsoring the team. The Romanian government can take advantage of the international recognition brought by the children’s achievements and makes sure to congratulate them for each victory, but does not offer any financial support.
“This departure, I can honestly tell you, was the most expensive per person in all our 11 years. The biggest blow came from problems with airports and plane tickets. We did our best to be able to participate , we managed to gather some partners, but part of the funds was still covered by the parents,” Panea told News.ro
He further explained that while the field of robotics “is currently recognized as a school discipline and an Olympiad, the Romanian state cannot help us at the moment. We are a team with children from several high schools, we do not “So we don’t belong directly to an educational unit, nor are we attached to a town hall or a local council. Unfortunately, we always have to find ways to support ourselves.”
(Photo source: AutoVortex Facebook page)