NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture--Showing an improvement of advanced robot technology, students got a leg up in assisting in the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The National Institute of Technology, Nara College, whose robot was the only one to successfully climb stairs and carry a load to the second floor 4 meters above, won the top prize at a contest here on Dec. 16.

“We focused on the robot’s legwork,” said Kosuke Yasukawa, 20, the team leader. “I am happy our efforts were rewarded and would like to thank my teammates.”

The contest, dubbed the "Hairo Sozo Robocon” (The robot contest to compete in creativity for reactor decommissioning), was the second following the first held last year. It was organized by the education ministry and a council of teaching staff at colleges of technology.

Two teams succeeded in having their robots go up and down stairs without a load this year.

“More advanced robots entered the competition this year after students learned a lesson from last year,” said Shinji Kawatsuma, an official at the Naraha Remote Technology Development Center of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, a government affiliate.

Sixteen teams from 15 colleges of technology across the country participated in the competition this year.

The contest is designed to advance robotic technology to perform tasks in the decommissioning of the plant.

Entrants are required to operate their robots from a location where they cannot see them, as is the situation at the plant after the triple meltdown in March 2011.

They can choose one of two settings--reaching a place 4 meters higher by using stairs or surveying the floor scattered with broken objects.