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Young robot builders have Olympic dreams

Jorge Zárate and Luis Enrique Salazar — both 14 years old — are hoping to compete at the World Robot Olympiad in Delhi, India, at the end of the month.

A couple of Mexican teenagers have Olympic dreams, but not the athletic kind.

Jorge Zárate and Luis Enrique Salazar — both 14 years old — are hoping to compete at the World Robot Olympiad in Delhi, India, at the end of the month.

The robot builders are students at Robotix, a Mexican institution that specializes in robotics technologies, where they have created a small robot that is the result of years of dedication to their extracurricular studies.

Salazar, 14, began studying at Robotix at the age of five; his partner, four years ago.

The Olympics competition will require that their small robot, built with LEGO, follows a thin line drawn on the floor where it will identify several brightly coloured boxes, which it will then have to sort and place by colour in less than two minutes.

The contestants will arrive at the event with their robot unarmed and will have less than two hours to assemble it. After three trial runs, the robot must be ready to face its two-minute challenge.

Zárate and Salazar designed and programmed the robot from scratch with the tutelage and guidance of their coach, Ignacio Salazar. The small machine is now able to complete the challenge in 1.2 minutes, a time the team is trying to reduce even more by dedicating 20 hours each week to training.

“What I like the most about making robots is being creative, making useful stuff,” Salazar told the newspaper Milenio. This year’s edition of the Robot Olympiad will be his second time in the international arena.

Last year, in Qatar, Salazar and his team ranked 16th overall. That experience has helped him improve his programming of the robot, and he expects to achieve an even better performance this year and stand out from the over 50 participating teams.

His teammate has a slightly different approach to robot-making: what Zárate likes most is “being able to make something that could possibly, in the future, have a function in society, not only helping me but helping everyone.”

He is more design oriented, and has put much care into the robot’s weight and height specifications, along with the mechanism that will lift and transport the small coloured cubes.

But programming and design are not complicated for the two boys. The more difficult challenge at present is coming up with the funds to get to Delhi because their endeavours are privately funded.

A fundraising campaign on social media seeks to raise the 180,000 pesos (over US $9,300) they need for travel and accommodation expenses, in the form of donations and sponsorships.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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