A team from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) will represent the UAE for the 4th Kibo Robot Programming Challenge (Kibo-RPC), organised by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and US space agency, Nasa.

The announcement of the UAE representative to the annual international robotics challenge was made extra special as this was done by UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, aboard the orbiting International Space Station (ISS), Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) said on Tuesday.

Kibo-RPC is an educational program in which students solve various problems by programming free-flying robots Astrobee and Int-Ball remotely inside ISS’s Japanese Experiment Module or Kibo. The aim is to “inspire students to develop their educational and professional goals to a higher level, as well as learn cutting-edge methodologies and hone their skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."

The final will be in September and the UAE team will go up against teams from Japan, USA, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Bangladesh, and a team representing the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Kibo, which means ‘hope’ in Japanese, is Japan's first human space facility in ISS. Experiments in Kibo focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research. Kibo has a scientific airlock through which experiments are transferred and exposed to the external environment of space.

How the UAE team was selected

According to MBRSC, the national selection for this year’s Kibo-RPC started in February this year. Five teams from four universities in UAE were the contenders for the final selection, including the victorious AUS-IEEE Robotics and Automation Society; and teams from Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi and UAE University, plus another team from AUS.

After the initial application and self-study phases, the competition transitioned to the programme development stage in April, when the teams received access for programming purposes to the simulated ISS environment. After the preliminary round in July and a subsequent phase of programme improvement, the AUS-IEEE-RAS team secured its place as the UAE’s finalist.

Moment of triumph

Adnan AlRais, mission manager of the UAE Astronaut Programme at MBRSC, said, "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 underlined.

The UAE Astronaut Programme is one of the projects managed by MBRSC under UAE’s National Space Programme and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital.

Telecommunications And Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), aims to support research and development in the ICT sector in the UAE and promote the country’s integration on the global stage.

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