Clague Middle School student wins first in his category at Robofest 2020 World Championship

Lawrence Technological University in Southfield has announced the winners of its Robofest 2020 World Championship.

Tanay Panja, a seventh grader at Clague Middle School, won first place in the junior exhibition category with his project: “Raspberry pi-based access control using OpenCV for autonomous delivery robots.”

Tanay Panja, with his award-winning project

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing global shutdowns this year, this was the only robotics world championship still able to be held because of its ability to have games and competitions shifted to an all-online format. This year, 153 teams comprised of 350 students competed in 13 age divisions and six competition categories. Competitions were held during the weekends from Aug. 28 through Oct. 10.

Tanay set out to solve the problem: How can I prevent an item from being misplaced from Delivery Bot?

So he developed a robot with a program that can be used for smart delivery and uses machine learning. The robot can so control access to delivery items until the right customer comes up for pickup.

He plans to use other identification methods if people don’t want to record their faces for privacy concerns. So if a certain person is not in the customer database the door will not unlock. If he is in the customer database and his face is recognized by the system, the door will be unlocked for the customer to receive the item he/she ordered. 

Tanay, 12, says he enjoys problem-solving and learning new technologies. He first started programming when he was 9 years old for First Lego League and started with learning programming LEGO block programming. He also participated in World Robot Olympiad (WRO).

“I won the Lego educational creativity award with my team of three students at international level in 2018,” he says. “That boosted my interest in programming even more.”

This is the third year he participated in Robofest and WRO. He took high school level python programming in 2019 which was offered through Ann Arbor Public School’s online learning platform, and participated in the American Computer Science League with two other Clague students.

In the summer of 2020, he took part in a machine learning summer camp offered by Robofest and won 2nd place for his final project called Smart Shopper which was inspired by cashier-less shopping at Amazon Go. He also participated and ranked in the top three for programming at Science Olympiad events at the elementary and middle school level.

“I am now interested in learning more about image recognition, artificial intelligence, and machine learning,” he says. “I want to develop an iOS app and I have some ideas for an app but I don’t know how to build it. So in my free time I am learning how to develop it using YouTube video tutorials.”

Noting that technology is constantly is changing and there is always something new to learn, Tanay says he doesn’t always find programming to be easy and that many times the code he created didn’t work.

When that happened, he turned to technology for the answers.

“I used Google and YouTube videos to search for answers. My SD card also failed two times, and my webcam failed once. Some of the time my Arduino sensors did not work. To solve this, first I tried to identify the problem, and then look for possible solutions, and then implemented, and I almost gave up, but I was able to solve the problem. I think that feeling of overcoming a problem or challenge is the best feeling the world, and motivates you to face different problems.”

Tanay says the best thing about participating in these competitions is seeing the works and code of other teams and programmers, most of whom are more advanced than he.

“I searched for some magical powers that made them great but I did not find anything,” he says. “The key to their success was simply years of training, dedication and hard work.”

Tanay is grateful to those who have encouraged his growth.

“I want to thank the teachers from AAPS who has helped me grow and learn new things,” says Tanay, who plays tennis and contrabass in his free time. “I also think that the A2 Virtual platform is an excellent platform for kids like me who want to self-study, at your own pace. I want to inspire other kids in elementary and middle school to get interested in robotics and programming, and open a not-for-profit to help other kids get interested in programming.”

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