2019 FIRST Global Challenge gets under way in Dubai

The third edition of a major international robotics competition kicked off at Festival Arena in Dubai on Friday.

More than 1,500 contestants from 191 countries are expected to take part in the 2019 FIRST Global Challenge.

This year’s theme – “Ocean Opportunities” – focuses on creating robots to clean up the oceans through eliminating waste and pollutants.

It’s the first time the competition is taking place outside the Americas.

Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence and Deputy Managing Director of Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), stressed the importance of hosting the event: “Robotics is one of the most important fields of scientific competition among the world’s largest economies.”

“The UAE’s interest in this vital domain stems from the economic and scientific opportunities associated with robots in diverse areas of life, in addition to the country’s keenness to contribute to finding solutions to anticipated challenges that may face the world in the future,” he added.

“The high level of commitment we saw from the participants on day one of the competition gives us confidence for a better tomorrow, where those bright minds and hearts will lead the way.”

Rapper, presenter and Black Eyed Peas star Will.i.am performed in Dubai on Thursday as the competition got under way.

The event was opened officially by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Sheikh Hamdan said that the gathering, and its attendance by so many young people from around the world, was intended to “spark positive change”.

Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST Global, said: “It’s not hard to see why Dubai has made this event such a spectacular success. I like to think of Dubai as the poster child for the hosting of high-tech events and the development of emerging technologies.”

“You know you’re at the centre of the world here, and there’s a real drive and ambition to turn this place into a global hub for innovation led by youth,” he said.

The competition venue features six areas, each with six teams competing.

Three teams compete against the other three. The goal is to score the maximum number of points during the qualifying days, after which the teams with the highest scores will proceed to the finals set to take place on Sunday, October 27.

The purpose-built venue includes team areas, training spaces, two playgrounds and a space for assembling and preparing robots before the competition.

One of its most important parts is the Robotics Clinic that enables teams to perform any repairs that may be required, and is staffed by Emirati volunteers as well as participants from abroad.

The qualifying rounds focus on the capability of the robots to perform a set of tasks that support the global efforts to protect and clean the oceans from the millions of tons of pollutants that negatively affect marine life and the health of the global population.

On day one of the competition, 141 of the total 284 qualifying-round matches took place.

In the early exchanges, Team UAE claimed an impressive three wins from three matches, while Team China has taken an early lead in the overall ranking points.

The results from the early stage heats all contribute to the final ranking of each country.

Team UAE comprises seven high school students: Shouq Saeed Al Dhanhani and Sheikha Ali Al Soreidi from Dibba Al Fujairah Secondary School, and Hamad Saeed, Abdullah Jawdat, Abdul Rahman Abdullah, Ghazi Salem and Mohammed Yasser from Rashid bin Saeed Secondary School in Hatta.

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