My name is Oliver Yang and I am a Year 10 Somerset student undertaking and completing the Personal Project amongst the rest of my cohort. My Project is the construction and development of an Automated Mechanical Robotic Chess AI (Artifical Intelligence) named M.Tal (Chess Grandmaster).

I have decided to create my Personal Project in relation to my future aspirations of the application of engineering and an everlasting recreation of mine, chess. The technical complexity of this project requires various skills, and a sheer determination to ‘do well’, which is the mindset for any individual to tackle any task at hand.

The 2020 global pandemic, COVID-19 swept through the world wreaking havoc amongst nations, communities, and essentially everyone. This epidemic was overcome by humanity’s morals to help those who are in need… and Netflix. The release of the popular Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit inspired many in the world to take on the game of chess. For me, I have been playing chess since the age of six and have had a real passion for it until recently, where I would focus more on my academic studies and co-curricular activities. Knowing that I would never be a professional player, why not construct a robot to play at the ‘professional’ level?

This resulted in the beginning of an exhausting and gruelling experience; the thorough research and taking endless courses to understand the process of creating a robot which can detect chess pieces and the board, evaluate the position to play the best possible, and move the piece to the designated square is something a normal 15 year old teenager like me would have no idea of what was happening. But going into this project, I knew I had to persevere until a successful completion of the robot. Currently, I have completed around 50 per cent of my project, where the AI development on Unity (A C# cross-platform game development software) has been completed, and designing/engineering the robotic arm will be the next section to complete. Throughout this experience, I have learnt various new skills including: C# Self-Learning AI Programming, Mechatronic Engineering skills (knowledge and understanding of engineering concepts) , Inventor (CAD program) to design the robot. I will also be learning how to use power tools and the specific technical skills to meticulously construct the tool-point and the general mechanism.

This journey has been demanding but rewarding at the same time. The skills which I have currently acquired have many uses for the future, and without the Personal Project, I would have never taken the time to learn this on my own time. Exploring these unfamiliar areas is a perfect opportunity in preparation for adulthood. Without this project, I would have still be sitting on the couch watching the never-ending series and movies on Netflix.

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