DUBAI, 8th August, 2023 (WAM) — The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre today revealed that AUS-IEEE-RAS team from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) will represent the UAE for the 4th edition of the annual international robotics challenge – Kibo Robot Programming Challenge (Kibo-RPC). After an explicit selection process, the winner announcement was made by astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi from the International Space Station (ISS).
This challenge is a collaborative effort between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, where students are offered a global platform to highlight their advanced programming acumen by controlling Astrobee, a free-flying robot, within a simulated setting. This September, the spotlight will be on the finale, where teams will remotely pilot the robot inside the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo) on the ISS. The event will culminate with the announcement of the top three winning teams, followed by an award ceremony.
Adnan AlRais, Mission Manager, UAE Astronaut Programme, MBRSC, echoed the sentiments of pride and achievement. “This moment of triumph is a testament to the talents and innovative capabilities of our youth. As we expand our footprint in the space frontier, events like the Kibo-RPC underscore the importance of integrating space science in our education system. We are not only fostering future astronauts but also contributing to the creation of a knowledge-driven society ready to face the challenges of tomorrow,” he expressed.
The national selection for this year’s Kibo-RPC started in February 2023 with a call for participation, with several universities across the UAE applying.
Among the contenders for the final selection, were the victorious AUS-IEEE-RAS team, a group of space enthusiasts from Khalifa University and New York University Abu Dhabi, a proud unit from UAE University, and another skilled team from the American University of Sharjah.
Each team brought a unique blend of innovative thinking, problem-solving capabilities, and programming expertise to the challenge.
After the initial application and self-study phases, the competition transitioned to the programme development stage in April 2023, where the teams received access to the simulated environment for programming purposes. Following a preliminary round in July and a subsequent phase of programme improvement, the AUS-IEEE-RAS team secured its place as the UAE’s finalist.
During the challenge, teams faced a scenario involving a suspected ammonia leak inside the ISS from Kibo’s control systems. Tasked with maintaining the safety of the astronauts, the teams programmed Astrobee to locate and fix the leaks, showcasing their problem-solving capabilities in a high-pressure, simulated space environment.
The Kibo-RPC is part of a broader MBRSC-JAXA collaboration that includes the Kibo-ABC initiative, which empowers students to programme free-flying robots on the International Space Station. This partnership builds on the success of previous collaborative initiatives, including an educational project featuring Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori and the Int-Ball, a camera robot onboard the ISS, as well as seminars on space robot technologies and the attitude control technology of spacecraft.