Myanmar Robotics Team Makes Top 10 at Competition

By Tin Htet Paing 29 July 2017

YANGON — A team of Myanmar engineering students who landed a top 10 ranking at the world’s first international robotics competition hope their achievement will inspire young people to practise science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in order to improve the country.

The team finished six out of 163 teams across six continents at the FIRST Global Robotics Olympics, held in Washington DC in the United States from 16-18 July with the aim of fostering passion in young people for scientific and technological innovation.

The group of seven students aged 17-18 met with the media in Yangon on Friday to share their experiences of building the robotic kit and taking part in the competition, which was themed on addressing the issue of clean water.

The team comprised students from Yangon Technological University; the University of Information Technology; the University of Computer Studies; Bursa Orhangazi Üniversitesi, Turkey; and the International Language and Business Centre. Hardware and robotics expert Ko Kyi Zaw Win mentored the group.

Team leader Phone Thiha Kyaw said, “We didn’t expect to be in the top 10 at all,” adding that all members learned plenty from their counterparts across the globe during the competition.

Team spokesperson Kyaw Za Zaw encouraged young people to use opportunities not only for their own development, but also for the development of their communities.

“I hope other young people across the country participate in such robotics competitions or any other STEM fields using all the available resources they could find in their environment,” Kyaw Za Zaw told The Irrawaddy.

Ma May Pyae Sone Kyaw, 17, an engineering student at the University of Information Technology, was one of the two young women on the team.

Seeing all-female teams from other countries inspired her to believe in her own strength, she said.

“The whole idea that girls are not very relevant in building robots disappeared when I saw other all-female robotics teams at the competition,” she said.

The Myanmar team won five out of six matches at the competition. Team Europe won the whole contest, followed by Poland, Armenia, Israel, and Germany.

Supported by USAID, Yangon innovation lab Phandeeyar in February called for applications to partake in the competition and formed the team of high school and university students, which it coached, said Myint Myat Aung Zaw, Phandeeyar associate and assistant mentor for the group.

Inspired by their achievement, he said the team hopes to pave the way for an annual regional robotics competition in the coming years.

Scot Marciel, US Ambassador to Myanmar, said at the event on Friday he was “surprised and not very surprised” to hear about the team’s triumph, and praised Myanmar’s youth as talented and hard working.

“This competition provides an environment where young, innovative thinkers can develop and fortify their ideas,” he said, adding that his government was proud to have supported the team and the next generation of thought leaders.