Research in Vietnamese universities used to be considered either a way for students to experiment with theoretical knowledge they have gained in classes or a means to obtain a national prize. However, nowadays there is a tendency to conduct practical scientific research and use it to earn money by selling data to corporate companies.
Meeting needs of businesses
A group of students from the mechanical engineering department of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technical Education and their investors are beaming with pride as they view the outcome of their research project of a ‘worker robot’ that can smoothly perform tasks in an assembly line.
Trinh Hoai Duc, a member of the research team, shared that they began translating their imagination into reality after the Lunar New Year Holidays.
It was not an easy task at all since many problems of dynamics arose and it took them forever just to come up with one simple solution, said Duc. Yet, when they were able to overcome the initial obstacles, more and more creative ideas came forth and they enthusiastically experimented on each one before deciding on the final version. After four months of continuous labor, they were able to perfect their product.
|Students of the HCMC University of Technical Education next to their ‘worker robot’|
When the group received financial support from Duc Phat Bakery in the southern province of Binh Duong, they felt more encouraged. “Since the current assembly line for packing in the factory was part manual, our product was helpful in turning the line into a completely automatic system,” commented Cuong.
Another product that came out of the Open Lab of the HCMC University of Technical Education was the automatic vending machine for various kinds of goods, which is also the first ever made in the world.
Unlike other existing vending machines, this device can automatically sell more types of merchandise such as drinks, cakes, magazines, and newspapers and can recognize all kinds of Vietnamese money (both coins and paper notes) circulating in the country. Priced at about VND20-50 million (approx. USD960-2,400), this is only one fifth of the cost of similar imported machinery.
Support of excellent professors
Having spent many years instructing students in their research projects, Dr. Nguyen Truong Thinh, head of Open Lab, said that nowadays it was easier for researchers to approach state-of-the-art scientific knowledge in the world, thus creating more bold and innovative ideas.
It was the instructor’s job not only to guide junior researchers so that their designs would not go too far out of control but also to help them understand the real needs of companies by conducting necessary surveys, said Thinh.
Once an idea satisfies the requirements of a certain business, it is not difficult at all to ask for financial support. Thinh shared that the Open Lab actively contacted the government as well as factories and left their name in case a need for a design arose.
After five years in operation, the Open Lab has already made various automatic machines such as the worker robot mentioned above for many businesses. Besides Duc Phat Bakery, two wood processing factories in Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City have also shown their interest in this innovative product.
The design for a robot working inside the drainage pipe system, ordered by the local authorities of Ho Chi Minh City with an investment of VND1 billion (USD47,940), is also nearly complete.
The money earned from these projects is used partly for the operation of the lab. The rest is divided among researchers, being considered as their salary.
According to Le Vy of Duc Phat Bakery, these domestic machines are usually five to ten times cheaper than similar products imported from other countries. He commented that businesses were eager to financially support any scientific project of students, as long as it is practical and made under proper professional guidance.