The KIBO Robot Programming Challenge (KIBO-RPC) is hosted by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States. The 2nd KIBO-RPC Taiwan Preliminary Round was held by the National Space Organization (NSPO) of National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) on July 10, 2021. Due to the pandemic, the event was conducted via online conference. A total of 12 teams submitted programs, 11 of which achieved Class A results, the highest rank. After combining their technical results with presentation scores, the GeminiPYTW team won first place and received a prize of NT$20,000. The GeminiPYTW team members are from Universidad Politécnica Taiwán Paraguay and are currently studying at National Central University, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, and the R.O.C. (Taiwan) Air Force Academy. The Taipei Fuhsing Robotics Alpha team from Taipei Fuhsing Private School won second place and received a prize of NT$12,000. The team Clash Of Win from National Nanke International Experimental High School and National Yunlin University of Science and Technology won third place and received a prize of NT$8,000. The remaining winning awards went to three teams, including the O__O team from National Experimental High School at Hsinchu Science Park, the Hatsune no Friends team from National Tsing Hua University, Waseda University, and National Nanke International Experimental High School, and the CK Robotics-X team from Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School. Each of the three winning teams received a prize of NT$5,000.
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is actively developing space technology and promoting the space industry, and cultivating talent in the industry is its foundational work. The newly passed Space Development Law also expressly stipulates that the competent authority, MOST, should promote the popularization of space science and cultivate talent for the development of the space industry. The NSPO of NARLabs implements the policies of MOST and actively assists students in participating in relevant international competitions in space technology, cultivating the future of space technology for Taiwan.
The International Space Station (ISS) is jointly maintained and operated by space agencies from the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and Europe. The Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO) is a module manufactured by JAXA. Although the competition’s theme is similar to last year’s, the difficulty has increased. Participants must program controls for the flying robot Astrobee on KIBO more accurately, cause it to reach a fixed point in the simulated space capsule, and make specified actions. The biggest challenge of the competition is that there are many Keep Out Zones in the simulation system. While creating the program, participants need to consider these uncertainties and design a stable algorithm so that Astrobee can avoid these Keep Out Zones successfully and arrive at the designated point in time to complete the mission. Due to the interfering factors, the same program will have 8 different results when executed 8 times. Therefore, each submitted program will be executed 8 times, and the worst performance will be scored. If the robot cannot complete the task within 10 minutes, no points will be earned.
A total of 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region (4 more countries than last year) held KIBO-RPC preliminaries this year, and Taiwan’s preliminary round was hosted by the NSPO. Each team in this competition must consist of at least three students of any grade. Among all participating countries, Taiwan had the second largest number of teams registered, with a total of 18 teams and 98 students participating, including 77 students from 16 high schools and 21 students from 10 universities. Due to its high technical threshold, there were 12 teams in the competition who submitted their programs on time. Among the 11 participating countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan also had the second largest number of participating teams that passed the test.
The GeminiPYTW team, who won the championship of Taiwan’s Preliminary Round, will participate in the Programming Skills Round (arranged by JAXA) with the winning teams from other Asia-Pacific countries. If selected, they will be able to participate in the final round scheduled for September 2021. In the finals, participants will operate the actual Astrobee and work with professional scientists and engineers to learn advanced scientific, engineering, and mathematical skills. In addition, they can interact with contestants from all over the world and enhance opportunities for international exchanges.