Students to program self-driving cars

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With Future Engineers WRO brings current research into schools and teach students about engineering workflow. We saw a need to actualize robotics skills, says game developer.

Big companies, start-ups, investors and city planners all see the potential in self-driving vehicles. To keep WRO challenges relevant, we've launched Future Engineers, a new category and a pilot competition that's all about autonomous driving. We talked to game developer Alexander Kolotov to hear what the concept is all about.


Why has this new game been developed?

We saw a need to revisit actuality of game tasks and wanted to offer high school students more up to date and interesting challenges. Challenges they could meet in the real world. I've been working with a similar game concept in Russia, and what we've seen is that students really enjoy this type of concept. It forces them to do something new and very different from existing WRO categories: They start looking for computer vision and advanced decision making approaches by using machine learning.


Why did you want to work on Future Engineers?

I've worked in the industry for almost 20 years and in parallel coached students. My passion is to teach robotics. I wanted to share my knowledge with students, but not just by coaching a few teams. My goal was to be a part of teaching students around the world, and working on Future Engineers is my opportunity to do so. 


What do you like best about the concept?

This is just the first step. The concept is future-proof so to speak, because it's easy to enhance and improve over time. The game can be adapted and new challenges implemented, so we can continue to provide interesting tasks for students to solve. That flexibility makes it very appealing.


What happens next?

Now we do the pilot and see what students and coaches think about the game. Do they find it challenging enough? Or is it too simple? Will they have trouble using it? When we get the feedback, we will know what to improve or change. We will not change the task significantly, but if students are struggling, we might need to provide extra education to help them learn. If it turns out to be too simple, we will increase complexity, like change the objects on the game field or introduce moving objects. 


Winning at the race track

The new category is for students aged 16-19. The self-driving car challenge is a Time Attack race: there will not be more cars on the track at the same time. Instead, one car will try to achieve the best time by driving three laps fully autonomously. Traffic signs, a red and green pillar, indicate the side of the lane the vehicle has to follow. If the vehicle knock down the traffic signs, the game is over. Much like in the real world.

Read more about Future Engineers:
wro-association.org/competition/new-competition-formats/future-engineers/

Many of our countries have special local circumstances due to the COVID-19 situation world-wide, but some countries will be able to do a small pilot competition or test the new game with a number of teams or schools. With the feedback from our community in 2020 we will improve the game concept for next year.

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