Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Sunday in Ichinoseki, and I went to one of the more 'different' events I have been to since I have been in Japan. Ichinoseki played host to 'Robocon' - where high schools from across the country come to enter their robots in a competition to rival the Olympics. Well, maybe the Maths Olympics.... That's a real thing, right? 
The challenge was this - to make a robot that could jump. Hence the theme of the convention was 'Shall we jump'. Robots had to go down a short course jumping rope several times. Get turned around, come back and then skip five times. The students made two robots, one to do this 'course' and one to help with swinging the rope around. They all had hydraulic workings of some kind. Some were quite small, some where quite big, and one was tall with an aerial and every time the rope went over the robot, it caught and the timing was put out.

The robots were all dressed up in interesting fashions, as were the students operating them. I don't profess to know how the robots worked or new when to jump, but some had some sort of infra-red thing attached, like the sensors that tell urinals when to flush. Some students were smart and held the rope very low to make it easy for the robots to clear it, others were not so smart and paid the price sadly. Robots appeared to be great and worked well, or didn't work at all and didn't come close to finishing the course in the three minutes that were allowed.

The students all wore costumes which ranged from the frankly silly to sublimely ridiculous. Many wore helmets for no reason at all. I felt a bit sorry for the students to be honest. They were on TV, probably national TV, and there was quite an audience with organised cheering and a count in (3-2-1) for the start of each 'match'. Two robots were pitted against each other in elimination style.

What can I say? There may be robot competitions in Australia, I'm sure there are, but it seems very important here. Japan has a love of robots, just look through anime and manga and you can't fail to see that! For me it was just another slightly surreal Japanese experience!

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