14-year-old achieves dream win on international stage

Just about everybody has dreams and hopes for the future. Idealising our future selves with amazing degrees of success at academia, work, art or sport is what we pretty much all do.  Well, at least we do when we aren’t otherwise clouded by self-doubt and pessimism.
Actually, to find someone who keeps a dream alive is rare. This is someone whose dreams are sustained by a passion and love of doing what they do and also a willingness to work really hard.
Vientiane Times found such a person in Boungalit Saysuliane, a young man who took the first place Gold Medal in the 14-year-old category at the International Youth Robot Competition held at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, last month.

Lao contestants in the International Youth Robot Competition are proud of their achievements.

Boungalit is in Grade Four at Vientiane International School and was one of four young people from Laos selected to take part in the 14-year-old category.
Vientiane Times recently took Boungalit away from his robotics to talk to him about his success and ask what it was like being part of the Lao delegation to travel to Bangkok for this year’s competition.
Here is what he had to say:
Q:Had you taken part in any international competitions before this contest?
A:Well, once I represented Laos in a friendly soccer competition in Vietnam. Lots of teams from the Mekong region countries took part.
Q: A sportsman too!  Can you tell us how you came to be interested in robotics?
A: I really like robotics. As I recall I was about six years old when I happened upon a book that had pictures in it I’d never seen before.  I didn’t quite know how to understand it so I asked my mother. I still don’t know what it was in the book and my mother’s answer I kind of understood. Then not long after she bought me a toy that came in component parts that I had to assemble.  My love of making things came from there.
Q: So what inspired you to take part in the contest?
A: My parents are my biggest inspiration and it was through their help that I got in.
It is the VF Centre in Vientiane that identifies young people in Laos who have a special talent for robotics for selection in the International Youth Robot Competition.
Four students from Kiettisak and Panyathip international schools were selected by the VF Centre to attend the contest, but initially I wasn’t included. My mother asked the VF Centre to consider me for the team as she was convinced I had the necessary talent and abilities to do well.  The VF Centre saw what I could do and allowed me to participate.  I really wanted to do well at the competition for my parents because of how they helped me.
Q: So what did you have to do to win a gold medal?
A: I am quite self-taught in robot programming but I also have a trainer who helps me practice for competitions.  While on stage I just kept telling myself to be calm and not to be nervous.
For the competition I had to control my robot by remote control and make it perform different operations as the competition progresses.
Q: How did it feel to win?
A: I feel so proud of myself, and proud to be Lao too.  I told the other contestants that even though Laos is a small country we have the same amount of talent as other nations have.
I feel lucky because I got a reward for doing something I love. I’m really grateful to my parents and I share my success with them.
I’m so excited and glad I got the chance to win a competition.  I don’t know whether it will ever happen again so I am glad it happened at least once.
Q: What did you like the most about the contest?
 A: I met a lot of people from many different countries. Before the actual competition started, there was a cultural exchange event. It was really great to see performances from Thailand, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Unfortunately Laos missed out on performing in this. 
Q: How is life different now you’re a gold medallist?
A: It hasn’t changed my life too much.  You know, I’m no super hero or anything.  I’m still just doing normal things, trying to be a good son and do well at school.
Q: Do you plan to enter next year’s contest?
A: I will do my best if I’m selected for the event again. I spend about an hour every day working on robots so I should have better skills and knowledge for a more senior level if I’m selected. We’ll see, but I hope so.
Vientiane Times: Well, hope is the first step to realising a dream.  If you keep working hard and doing what you’re doing I’m sure your future will be bright with many more competition victories to come.
The International Youth Robot Competition attracted participants from over 30 countries who performed in front of an audience of 1,000  people.

By Phouthong Sivongsa
(Latest Update December 20, 2018)


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