High school students from Qatar have developed an underwater robot to rescue marine creatures affected by plastic pollution in the 2021 First Global Challenge, an "Olympics"-style robotics event.
Team Qatar, the STEM-vengers, consists of 16 students from 10 schools in Qatar. The First Global Challenge invites each country to nominate a team to compete in a Robotics Olympics, based on the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering identified by the US National Academy of Engineering.
The 2021 First Global Challenge consists of three months filled with technical and social media challenges, talks by STEM professionals, and technical training sessions—all while connecting the First Global Community around the world. This year, under the theme of “Discover & Recover,” the students explore how STEM is key to finding solutions to challenges related to education, environment, health and economy that can prepare them to build a better tomorrow. The season began in June and wraps up on September 28.
One of this year’s challenges is the Solutions Challenge in which the students use STEM concepts to tackle problems in their communities while forming alliances with teams from other continents to augment their work. Team Qatar proposed addressing a challenge in the environmental category by building a remotely operated underwater vehicle (Rov) to rescue marine creatures affected by plastic pollution and fishing gear, with an added sample collection feature to test for soil toxicity. The main components of the Rov include the remote control, DC motors and propellers, vision underwater using cameras, claws to remove plastic waste or nets from the sea creatures, a tool that to cut through the plastic waste to free the creatures without causing harm to them, a compartment to keep the rescued sea creatures safe, and a cylindrical tub that collects the soil samples.
Team Qatar’s Mahi Sharma said: “We learn a lot about robotics and work well with each other, even though some of us did not have previous experience with robotics. I find my experience as part of Team Qatar very useful as it helps me socialize with people from different schools and backgrounds but with two common interests: robotics and wanting to learn. We are gaining useful communication skills as well as the technical knowledge to build robots, which can be applied in many different fields.”
Team Qatar is mentored by Texas A&M at Qatar ( Tamuq) STEM experts Tala Katbeh, Benjamin Cieslinski and Dr Mohamed Gharib in the university’s STEM Hub, a joint initiative between the university and the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF). The students that make up Team Qatar are members of Tamuq’s STEM Hub Robotics Club, established by Dr Mohamed Gharib in cooperation with QNRF.
Katbeh said: “Team Qatar has shown a strong presence in the FGC since first participating in FGC 2018. While this year’s competition is virtual and comes with some challenges, the students representing Qatar this year have shown great enthusiasm. Every task they work on is a learning opportunity that is eagerly received.”