Special award for Team Maquinista at 2023 NHK Student Robot Contest despite difficulties

Team Maquinista from Tokyo Tech’s Society for the Study of Robotics — one of the Institute’s official student clubs — has won the Mabuchi Motor Co., Ltd. Special Award for their unique roller design at the 2023 NHK Student Robot Contest, held on June 4. This year’s contest, joined by 22 teams, was cosponsored by NHK and NHK Enterprises, Inc.

The NHK Student Robot Contest was first held in 1991 and has functioned as the national qualification round for the ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest since 2002.

Tokyo Tech representatives at 2023 NHK Student Robot Contest

Tokyo Tech representatives at 2023 NHK Student Robot Contest

Team Maquinista's machines: Squilla (left) and Chaffee

Team Maquinista’s machines: Squilla (left) and Chaffee

Each year, the theme of the Asia-Pacific contest changes depending on the host nation. The theme for the 2023 contest, which will be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in August, is “Casting Flowers over Angkor Wat.”

Teams use two robots — each of which must be built according to strict rules regarding factors such as size, weight, and safety — to throw rings onto 11 poles spread around the arena. The robots have three minutes to collaborate and pick up their team rings, and then throw launch into the air and onto the poles. Teams score points for each pole that has their team’s ring at the top. The team with the most total points is the winner. However, if a team manages to throw their rings on top of eight designated poles, they immediately win by achieving chey-yo, meaning “cold game” in Khmer.

Struggles during qualifying matches

In the first qualifying match, Team Maquinista’s robots did not start working when the match commenced, allowing the opposing team to score the first points. However, the Tokyo Tech team quickly recovered and came from behind to win the match. In the second qualifier, one of the robots again refused to work properly. The opponent increased their lead and eventually won the match. As a result, Team Maquinista won one game and lost one game in the preliminary league, meaning they will not compete in the national finals or in Phnom Penh.

Many of the competing teams, including Team Maquinista, used a mechanism in which the rings are held from above and below by rollers and ejected using a rotating motor. Typical rollers used in this mechanism are cylindrical, but Tokyo Tech’s participants developed and incorporated into their robot unique tapered rollers* which they called “carrot rollers.” For this creation, Team Maquinista received a special award from Mabuchi Motor Co., Ltd.


Rollers with symmetrical slopes on both sides relative to each other.

Carrot rollers worthy of award

Carrot rollers worthy of award

Special Award trophy

Special Award trophy

Comments from participants

Chief Maquinista Takumi Suwabe

4th year, Mechanical Engineering

It was extremely frustrating not to produce results after a year of development and practice, but we are happy that we left our mark in the form of a Special Award. We feel honored that our ideas were recognized.

I was only in a position to cheer on the team. Even though many things went wrong in the test run the day before, we were able to win one match, and I believe that the participating members did their very best. I would like to thank all the people who supported us daily. That is what made our participation in this event possible. Thank you very much.

My studies currently focus on thermofluids in the field of mechanical engineering. Team Maquinista also includes students who study materials and informatics, and are not necessarily focused on the study of robotics. Anyone with the slightest interest in robotics can be active in our group, regardless of their affiliated School or Department. My academic research is not directly related to my Team Maquinista interests either, but I believe that the valuable experience I gained from this team will be useful in the future. I am grateful to the team members who fought together with me and to everyone who supported our activities.

Our goal is to win the whole competition next academic year. Come and support us!

Contest Team Leader Ryo Horie

3rd year, Electrical and Electronic Engineering

We experienced many hardships in the past year, but the joy of seeing the robots we had built move on the big stage of the NHK Student Robot Contest is something that I cannot express in words. We are disappointed to have achieved only one victory, but our daily efforts were rewarded with the Special Award from Mabuchi Motor Co., Ltd.

I joined Team Maquinista soon after entering Tokyo Tech, and I am now able to lead a team thanks to the seniors who guided me and the friends who took on different challenges with me. I feel nothing but gratitude to the members of this year’s Team Maquinista and all those supported us.

All Team Maquinista members

All Team Maquinista members

Robot contest participants receiving Special Award

Robot contest participants receiving Special Award

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