Countless hours of hard work by the AARNet-sponsored Team 4613, Barker College Redbacks in the lead up to the FIRST Robotics Competition 2016 Australia Regional paid off with a spectacular win in the final showdown on Saturday 20 March and a prestigious Chairman’s Award.
Winning the final round of the regional competition, held at Sydney Olympic Park, was a multi-team effort, with Team 4613 participating in an alliance that also included Team 3132, Macquarie University Thunder Down Under, and Team 6035, Ulladulla High School House of Ulladulla.
FIRST Robotics is an international program in which high school students from around the world design, develop and build robots to compete in local, national and global championships. This year’s theme – “Stronghold” – saw students compete to capture their rival’s medieval castles using robots designed to throw ‘boulders’ into their opponents’ defences.
52 teams, mostly from across Australia but also from India, the US, Singapore, Taiwan and China competed in this year’s event. Many Australian teams are collaborations between universities, industry and schools, with Macquarie University, Curtin University, Sydney University, University of Tasmania, UniSA, University of Adelaide and UNSW all represented. Australia boasts the largest number of teams of any country outside of North America.
Mentors play a vital role in providing advice to help teams design and build their robots and prepare for the event. AARNet engineers mentored the Barker College team and also established a collaborative program to provide remote mentoring to other teams across Australia. This program and other outreach activities were key factors that contributed to Team 4613 winning the 2016 Chairman’s Award at the event.
For Team 4613 it was an exciting weekend and the progression of the regional competition was at times, gut wrenching, with lots of challenges presenting themselves in the form of teeth stripped from gears and broken springs.
The robot received a battering from the field and other robots, requiring the quick installation of the spare parts the team had pre-fabricated. But, teamwork and quick thinking, as well as support from alliance partners and a great strategy won out in the end.
Programs like FIRST are part of a wider national effort to increase STEM participation and it’s great to see a growing number of universities and schools in the AARNet community involved in this event. The government has identified a raft of new measures focusing on science and discovery in its National Innovation and Science Agenda and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop were in the crowd and met with competitors working on their robots in the pits on Saturday afternoon.
The winning teams will all now head to St Louis in the United States for the FIRST Robotics World Championships in April, along with four other finalists, including two teams from Curtin University, one from Abbotsleigh and one from Marsden High School.
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