Kota Uchiyama, a student at Kanazawa Institute of Technology, led his university robot team to victory this year in an international competition in Vietnam and is already gearing up for a two-peat in 2014.

In August, two robots designed and built by Uchiyama’s team won the 12th ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest (Robocon) in the city of Danang.

“I didn’t do anything special as leader,” Uchiyama, 20, said modestly. “The victory was due to all the team members.”

Nineteen teams from 18 countries and regions competed in this year’s Robocon, using two robots, one automatic and the other manual, to quickly and accurately place cylindrical plant buds in a designated area of a field that represented the Earth.

Uchiyama has dreamed of producing tools that would make life more convenient since his junior high school days. After enrolling in the university’s department of robotics, he also joined its robot contest team.

The path to Robocon victory was not so smooth, however. In the national tournament to qualify for the 2012 Robocon, Uchiyama’s team was bested by a group from the University of Tokyo. But his subsequent work on acceleration rates and travel distance saw his team prevail in this year’s national tournament.

The team met with a series of unexpected problems in the run-up to the finals in Vietnam, including some just an hour before the competition. But, Uchiyama said, “We didn’t panic because we were all united in dealing with these errors.”

Looking toward the 2014 Robocon, Uchiyama is already spending up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, on getting ready.

“It’s so much fun doing this because I gain more knowledge every day,” he said.

A native of Niigata Prefecture, Uchiyama said he likes to relax by cycling with friends along the beach. He also expressed his admiration for baseball player Ichiro Suzuki. “He is not just a talented player, but has achieved success through hard work,” he said.

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