Peace through robotics in Tel Aviv

Theres been a lot in the news lately about the Christ at the Checkpoint event, a collection of Christians that are critics of Israel, and worryingly some that also involved with extremist Islam, and invited some leaders from a few local congregations to make the event look ‘balanced’  – I have seen a brief bit of one the videos and I think there was some good things spoken by one of leaders of a congregation in Jerusalem I go to, but not really convinced there was a fair representation.

Is there way to bring Jesus to bring reconciliation to Jew and Arab, yes definitely!   but I will look forward to some other event I think.

Whilst this event was on, I spent three days out of town at the event in Tel Aviv, as this year I went to the FIRST Robotics event that was being held there in a sports stadium.

This event gets youth into competing in using their engineering and electronics know-how, as well as a whole host skills; team work, budgeting, piloting their machines as well as approaching hi-tech companies in Israel for sponsorship.

I didn’t manage to get many pictures this time, but can see more from my writings I did last year, here.

https://britinjerusalem.com/2011/03/16/tel-aviv-robotics-competition-part-1/

The teams included religious Jews, secular Jews, visiting American Christians, local Arabs, soldiers from the IDF and all girl teams too, (theres a lot of women in IT and engineering here compared to the UK)  it just so happened to have a great atmosphere and a mixture of different people groups here.  There was no mention at all of any politics whatsoever at this event.  and it felt that it wasn’t a contrived effort to make peace as anyone is invited to take part.

I was at this event as part of a project Bridges for Peace does to get involved with community work, I was just sitting up the balls on the pitch after each game session, I suppose a bit like the chap with white gloves who sets the balls up on snooker on the telly!  It was a fun event although it was a 12 hour day for us, as well as three days to set everything up before the games started.

Robotics are used a lot by the Israeli army for bomb disposal and drones to take pictures of a hostile area to relay back to a base, and the FIRST Robotics events have been happening for 20 years now in the US and Israel.

I think its very exciting that these events can take place to bolster the reputation of Israel as the ‘Silicon Wadi’ and provide a fertile environment for new talent in technology and engineering.

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 4 Competition

The competition is here!

Each round is only about two and half minutes, each robot has to scoop up a variety of coloured inflatables and place them on a peg, its a bit like basketball I guess.

The specification of each robot is roughly the same so the size of the chassis, and has a vertical section with some kind of arm, the movement can be with bicycle chain, wire pulleys or hydraulics.

An unusual part of the competition, is each robot has an extra mini-robot, looking like a rollerskate, this gets launched from an extra extending arm, put onto the these poles where it has to climb up and press the top activating a switch making a green light come on, for a massive bonus in points.   As you can expect this is a very difficult task to do in a short space of time, as well as implement into the design of the robot.

My job here was simply as a marshal to gather the shapes and put them on the side in between each game.  There are teams come out after each tournament to load their robot onto a trolley and take back to the pit.  These things look like giant bagels!   The glasses are necessary in case pieces break off a robot, theres a lot of sharp metal bits in the inner workings there.

A lot of the judges have some engineering background, some of the Israelis work for famous names in IT such as Google and Hewlett Packard.  It was good to chat about humorous connections to Futurama (looks like Tel Aviv at the beginning credits of this show!) and I-Robot as well 🙂

The winners!

This was absolutely superb event to be part of, and as Christian and an IT person to participate in this event, I think its humbling that the Lord God gives some of us Christian volunteers extra ways to serve him in doing different and exciting challenges.  I hope this event continues on to help young people with curiosity for technology in a sporting team event and helps this country’s reputation as a place fertile in highly skilled engineers and problem solvers.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 3 Extreme engineering

Left: There are a few mascots just like a big sports event, this fella (or lady, I couldn’t tell) in the orange costume can’t really see so needs someone to take him around 🙂 Right: Robots get brought in loaded in crates along with computers, tools and spare parts.

Left: These players reject conventional control methods with a handheld radio control with big springy aerials, instead moving around is done with a laptop.   This is part of a dedicated control panel, with the laptop fastened onto a wooden board with two or three conventional game joysticks for movement.  Each robot has a conventional wireless router which gets instructions from the operator.   When it is time for the team to play, they carry the control panel out with them.  There is a PC in the pit as well, some of them are showing CAD software with 3D models of robots and individual sub-assemblies.  Right: Oops, server error!

Batteries! think these are fairly common ones for wheelchairs.  These wheels are amazing!  They don’t look a common type of part, as each has a roller type piece set at 45 degrees, I am guessing they are designed to give enough traction over sand or gravel.

Top left: Lots of complicated stuff here, seem there are several discrete control systems that manage motors, pulleys and other bits.  Right: Each ‘pit’ is a domain for each robot team to test and service their robot, hold collection of parts and tools, have lunch, do male team bonding (actually there are girl engineers too) and also as a kind of geek’s dressing room.

I think the scissor type elevating robot is my favourite 🙂

It was great talking to the different teams, judges and mentors (mostly contestants from previous competitions)   Its phenomenal seeing the amount of creative talent that is here, especially as all the contestants here are very young (college age)

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition

Tel Aviv – robotics competition Part 2 Meet the robots

Another 5am start – urrrgh….

But it was worth it also.   As the robotics event was already in full swing, I did get to miss out on the Lego event that happened earlier in the week sadly, as my colleagues from work were helping out on the monday and tuesday.

The electronic signs didn’t show English, but some other signs around the corner did show which gates at Jerusalem bus station are for which city.

Tel Aviv bus station is hugely complicated.   Its a bit reminiscent of the now gone Tricorn shopping centre in Portsmouth, UK, for its concrete angles.   When your bus gets there you are high up as its like a multistory car park, quite a clever design really and you have to use lifts or escalators or steps down.

I just seem to go round and round looking for an exit, and got into an abandoned wing of the shopping centre which looked a bit seedy and smelt of wee.  Got to like the “Parkings” sign!

Back at the Nokia arena, I got to visit some of the contestants there…

Meet the robots!  They are all made of mostly steel, weigh upto about 40 kilos, have an upright arm for grabbing objects, share the same control system (wireless by laptop)  and are sponsored by companies big and small.   There is a bumper, a rubber or foam insulator around the whole thing to protect from knocking into things.   I don’t know much about the rules and specs they had to be built to, but I do know they are not mean to attack each other or people 🙂

The teams are almost all Israelis, secular and religious Jews, Arabs and a team from the military too, plus was one foreign team from Bosnia.

Part 1: Setting up at the arena
Part 2: Meet the robots
Part 3: Robot inner workings
Part 4: Competition