National Robotics Competition 2010

I was invited to be a judge for the zone competition today. I really like doing these things. I won’t reveal the results of the competition as it is still on-going. However, of all the teams that I judged, I was extremely impressed by a certain individual. He stood barely to my shoulders, was about 12/13 and seemed to be very capable in delivering a cogent presentation of a technically elegant use of the Lego Mindstorm kit.

When we threw questions at him, he would answer it intelligently and with analytical thought. It was just unfortunate to me that he was still too young to be employed. If he was older, I would have given him my card and hired him on the spot. This pre-teen who was still a budak hingus could code better and solve problems harder than some of the people I work with.

I even tried to apply my skills and break his design and programme. I have to say that I can usually break the stuff written by my apprentice in under 15 seconds. I can even break stuff written by public listed companies in a matter of minutes. I couldn’t break this young man’s programme though. Then he showed us his little programme and I was suitably impressed at its simplicity and elegance.

Anyone who knows me will know that it is ‘difficult’ to impress me, especially technically. This boy is good, really good – might even be better than me.

I truly feel that this Lego robotics competition needs to be supported at all levels. If and when my company grows to a decent size, I will fully invest into supporting this competition. I cannot think of a better way to encourage engineering and problem solving in our kids than through the spirit of an engineering competition accessible to all.

Unfortunately, of all the teams I judged today, only one had girls in it. I would like to see more young girls take to the field – otherwise we run the risk of turning into a mono-culture.

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Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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