HKUST Underwater Robot Competition Promotes STEAM Education and Social Inclusion among 600 Students and Teachers

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Robotics for All

HKUST Underwater Robot Competition Promotes STEAM Education and Social Inclusion among 600 Students and Teachers

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The HKUST Underwater Robot Competition was attended by a record number of 86 primary and secondary schools in 2023 and concluded with an award presentation ceremony on June 3.
The HKUST Underwater Robot Competition was attended by a record number of 86 primary and secondary schools in 2023 and concluded with an award presentation ceremony on June 3. [Download Photo]

Over 600 students and teachers from 86 primary and secondary schools have a chance to boost their robotics knowledge while embracing cross-school teamwork and diversity in the Underwater Robot Competition 2023, which is one of the main activities under the HSBC / HKUST Robotics For Youths Programme.

Launched in 2015, the annual contest hosted by the Center for Global and Community Engagement under the School of Engineering aims to provide experiential learning in iSTEAM (inclusion, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education through robotics. It empowers HKUST undergraduates across disciplines to lead Primary 4 to Secondary 3 participants from diverse backgrounds, including the underprivileged, ethnic minorities, and students with special educational needs (SEN) or disabilities, as well as their teachers to experience the fun of building underwater robots in hands-on activities. Teachers who do not have robotics knowledge or a science background are also welcome to join.

The 2023 program, which ran from December 2022 to June 2023, was well received and attended by a record number of 86 primary and secondary schools. Each school sent a four or five-student team to join, involving students of different backgrounds and abilities, along with two teachers. The program also engaged more than 50 HKUST undergraduates to contribute in various capacities.

In April, participants first acquired basic knowledge of underwater robot design and control through a training workshop, followed by a qualifier where 30 teams were shortlisted and advanced to the final. During the final in mid-May, the qualified teams did not only take part in inter-school competition, but also in joint school competition where three teams (comprising both primary and secondary school teams) work together to undertake a series of missions. The joint school competition session, which has become a special feature of the program, tested students’ ability to work and communicate with new teammates actively. The three school teams which demonstrated the best collaboration with each other were awarded the Best Joint School Inclusion Award.

During the workshop in April, participants had a taste of driving an underwater robot to complete simple tasks.

The joint school competition in the final provided a good opportunity for students to engage in cross-school collaboration by grouping three school teams to work together to complete a series of missions.

The program concluded with an award presentation ceremony on June 3 that drew 140 participants. The winners of the competition are as follows:

Champion Kowloon Bay St. John The Baptist Catholic Primary School
First Runner-up Shau Kei Wan Government Secondary School
Second Runner-up Carmel Pak U Secondary School
Best Engineering Award Shau Kei Wan Government Secondary School
Best Artistic Award SKH Kei Tak Primary School
Best Teamwork Award Clearwater Bay School
Best Joint School Inclusion Award

N.T. Heung Yee Kuk Yuen Long District Secondary School
Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong
Fung Kai Liu Yun Sum Memorial School

To further recognize participants’ effort, achievement levels of gold, silver, bronze, and merit were awarded to 10, 11, 6 and 3 teams respectively. Overall the teams performed well, with five teams scoring full marks even though the tasks were more challenging this year.

Prof. Jimmy FUNG, HKUST Associate Provost (Teaching & Learning), delivered opening remarks at the ceremony. He said HKUST was honored to have the support of The Hongkong Bank Foundation who shared the University’s passion for promoting iSTEAM education and nurturing young talents in the field of robotics. “The Underwater Robot Competition is a testament to our commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable society where every student, regardless of their background, has the chance to discover their talent and reach their full potential. Through this meaningful project, we hope to engage more students and community members to foster a sense of cooperation, empathy and respect,” he added.

Dr. Roy CHUNG, Founder and Chairman of the Bright Future Charitable Foundation, said he was glad to see that the competition, now in its eighth edition, returned to its full scale and normalcy after few years of disruption due to the pandemic. He stressed that the importance of STEM knowledge not only lay in providing us the necessary skills to drive technological innovation, but also in training our problem-solving – which is a critical lifelong skill for young people no matter they will pursue engineering or not. He hoped that the competition would strengthen students’ STEM knowledge base and inspire them to become scientists or engineers to contribute to the future society, and concluded by wishing all “a bright future in your career and life”, as stated in the name of his charitable foundation.

Prof. Tim WOO, Director of the Center for Global and Community Engagement (GCE), School of Engineering, HKUST, expressed his gratitude to all the parties involved to make the competition a great success. He asked the young students to be thankful and to appreciate the efforts of their teammates and teachers – as he believed gratitude and appreciation were the most important part of whole program. He also encouraged the students to share their experience and inspiration with their schoolmates and others who do not yet participate in the competition.

To provide further encouragement, he asked the students to “believe in yourself” and embrace failure as part of the learning process, citing the GCE team’s own experience in innovating new ways to deliver experiential learning programs to young students when the city was hard-hit by COVID-19. The Underwater Robot Competition was cancelled for one year (2020) due to the pandemic. Yet with the belief that “challenges mean opportunities to break through”, the GCE team managed to host various online and physical workshops, as well as produce a number of videos teaching robotics in 2020 and 2021.