From the 9th to the 25th February this year the world will have access to a visual buffet of snow sports; the Winter Olympics is to be hosted by South Korea’s PyeongChang. Fans around the world will be cheering on their respective countries’ athletes. Also to be lauded, however, are the engineers who work behind the scenes; the smooth running of the Games is frequently their responsibility.
It started with the Olympic Torch Relay; technology played a bigger part in this tradition than ever before.
Leading up to these winter Games (on the 12th December, 2017); on the 41st day of the Relay, a non-human carried the torch. Robot HUBO has become the first Olympic torchbearer in history.
HUBO is a humanoid robot who was put through his paces; his first task was to drive a vehicle to an obstacle course. (His passenger was Dennis Hong, the Professor of the project.) When they arrived HUBO carried the flame towards an obstacle that lay before him.
Thereafter, he went on to demonstrate his usefulness as a rescue operation robot; HUBO drilled a hole in a wall; a hole through which he passed the Olympic torch.
The torch was then handed to a 14-year-old aspiring engineer who sat atop a human-operated-robot named FX-2. Professor Hong explained that the robots involved in this Olympic Games showcase how far robotics has come; they also reveal what we can expect in the future.
During the actual Games there will be 85 robots hard at work. Not all will be like HUBO, there will be 11 robot types assisting with a range of tasks. Some will clean floors, others will deliver things, and those with linguistic talents will offer directions to the spectators - in Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English.
Some of the robots even have creative ability; they will paint murals on the venue walls.
These robots are all controlled by the engineers at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).
Constructions, slopes, and snow
Korea’s largest steelmaker, Posco, contributed to the construction of facilities wherein the Games will be held; they have built the “International Broadcasting Center, media residence” and the “Gwandong Hockey Center”.
All in all, twelve facilities will be utilized during the Games, making these Winter Olympics the largest ever. Six older facilities have been refurbished and six are newly constructed. South Korea has also been congratulated for completing all necessary construction six months in advance of the Games.
TechnAlpin is the company responsible for the condition of the snow on the slopes. It has also assisted in the upgrade of the ‘snow-making systems’ at the two main venues. These venues will host the ‘skiing, alpine, snowboard and freestyle’ competitions.
TechnoAlpin installed the original systems back in the 1990s; now they have been upgraded to work around the clock during the Winter Olympics. 250 snow guns will spread snow around the various courses; they will be powered by three pumping stations and overseen by snow-making consultant Davide Cerato.
CEO of TechnoAlpin, Erich Gummerer said: “We are very proud to have been entrusted with providing guaranteed snow for the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.”
In conclusion, all of us at the Engineering Institute of Technology would like to wish all competitors the best of luck. We also earnestly hope that the Games can indeed be a time of friendly rivalry and healing between nations. And finally we congratulate and thank the engineers and technicians whose hard work makes such an event possible.
Herald. “Posco's Premium Steel, Engineering Solution Used for PyeongChang Olympics.” The Korea Herald, 20 Dec. 2017, www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171220000826.
Tousignant, Lauren. “A Robot Carried the Olympic Torch in South Korea.” New York Post, New York Post, 12 Dec. 2017, nypost.com/2017/12/12/a-robot-carried-the-olympic-torch-in-south-korea/.