As global demand for semiconductors continues to rise, there is an increasing need for Taiwan to develop a full semiconductor supply chain. Therefore, accelerating independent development of semiconductor equipment has become one of the most important policy objectives of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), and fostering the growth of talent in instrumentation science and technology lies at the root of this policy. The Taiwan Instrument Research Institute (TIRI) of NARLabs works to carry out NSTC's goal of rearing talent in the field of instrumentation, annually organizing the i-ONE Instrument Technology Innovation Competition for students. This year's competition concluded on Oct. 14 with an awards ceremony, where a National Taiwan University (NTU) team took home first prize and an award of NT$100,000 for the College & Above Group, and a team from Taipei Municipal Daan Vocational High School was awarded first prize and NT$80,000 for the High School Group. Teaching awards sponsored by motorcycle manufacturer KYMCO were also presented to the winning teams’ supervising professors, Dr. Yi Sheng Wang and Dr. Yen-Chang Chen, who were able to ride home on KYMCO "i-One AIR" electric motorcycles.
The i-ONE competition, now in its 15th year, is divided into two groups: High School and College & Above. In the preliminaries, 16 of 31 teams were shortlisted by a panel of specialist judges, while the finals consisted of a full day of presentations and Q&A sessions between the teams and judges. To succeed, teams must put creative ideas into practice and solve problems using scientific theory and hands-on skills, building scientific instruments while demonstrating the ability to coordinate and integrate creativity, theoretical application, and realizability.
The work of the winning team from NTU, “High-Efficiency Time-of-Flight-based Portable Mass Spectrometer,” was unanimously lauded by the judging panel. With a single focus condition, the fastest and slowest ions achieved the same time of flight in a full width at half maximum distribution, allowing for the resolution to increase and the length of the instrument to be shortened. The spectrometer's resolution and sensitivity are higher than that of a traditional instrument, and it was judged to have commercial value and use once production and measurement data validation are complete. The project of the winning team from Daan Vocational High School, meanwhile, was a small cradle-type five-axis machine, the development of which showed clarity from its design to assembly. Designed using computer simulation analysis, the axes were produced taking into account load capacity and selection of the appropriate motor, and a trial of the machine was successfully completed. According to the judges, if in the future the team can further improve the rigidity of the machine and the power of the axes, the machine will be able to demonstrate even more value and potential.
At the awards ceremony, TIRI Director General Peter Cheng-Tang Pan stated that the enthusiasm and perseverance of the participating students and instructors toward the research and development of innovative instruments is the greatest takeaway, regardless of the awards results. He encouraged students to remember the judges' comments and suggestions after the competition, view their research in a new light, and use this experience to continue to refine and optimize their output so they may participate in i-ONE again in the future. Director General Pan also emphasized that the competition not only provides a stage for makers to shine, but also develops students' ability to think creatively to tackle future challenges.
In recent years, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, TIRI has continued to train future experts in instrument manufacturing, upholding the spirit of i-ONE, which emphasizes ideas, innovation, integration, implementation, instrumentation, and internationalization. The competition allows young students and scholars to stimulate their creativity and apply scientific knowledge in hands-on projects, cultivating the world's next top instrumentation experts.
This year's competition was sponsored and supported by leading instrumentation companies Syntec Technology, KYMCO, Mitutoyo Taiwan, Gallant Micro Machining, Contrel Technology, Keysight Technologies, HIWIN, Calin Technology, Taiwan Elite Nano Technology, ThinTech Materials Technology, and Astro Clean Technology. With these partners, TIRI encouraged young students to generate creative solutions with technology to help us work toward a future of convenient, eco-friendly smart living.