Blackfriars makes debut in national robotics competition

A group of Blackfriars students has gone into battle – and come out wiser for the experience.

Over the weekend, eight members of the school’s Robotics Club, along with STEM Coordinator Matthew Wallace and Secondary teacher Mitchell Brealey, travelled to Sydney to take part in the FIRST Tech Challenge Australia National Championship.

It was the school’s debut on the National robotics challenge stage, with the boys – from Years 7-11 – taking part in five matches over the two-day competition.

In each match, the students were required to manoeuvre their robot around a battlefield, performing a series of set tasks along the way. Each completed task earned the team points.

They were also judged on their engineering portfolio, which documented and showcased how they created their robot and how they overcame challenges.

With temperatures topping 40C at Macquarie University on day 1, the competition was also hot.

The boys scored well in the first match and went into the second match on a high. Although they started that game strongly, a malfunction cost them valuable points.

“Robot glitches and malfunctions are the largest source of disappointment in these competitions,” Mr Wallace said. “But our boys displayed resilience, dealing with circumstances beyond their control.”

In the final match on day 1, luck was not on the Blackfriars boys’ side.

“Our third match started off well, however, another robot ran into our grabber claw and broke a pincer,” Mr Wallace said. “It also dislodged a power wire, ultimately disabling our robot halfway through the match.”

A series of technical glitches also cost the boys on day 2.

Despite the final results, Mr Wallace said the competition was a “terrific” experience, particularly given the Blackfriars students were largely up against far more experienced teams.

“The boys came into Nationals with a goal of improvement and have presented a much-improved robot compared to qualifiers,” he said.

“They learned that they have to trust themselves and have realistic and achievable goals about strategy.

“The boys are buzzing and making plans about how to push themselves next year in order to qualify for Nationals again. They have mentioned that it has been an eye-opening experience.”

FIRST Tech Challenge Australia National Championship team

  • Ben Colliver (Year 7)
  • Joshua Feneley (Year 9)
  • Michael Lambis (Year 7)
  • Anthony Phuy (Year 9)
  • Thomas Pile (Year 8)
  • Patrick Seal (Year 11)
  • Dan Shyjo (Year 10)
  • Michele Vial (Year 10)

In 2024, Blackfriars hopes to have a second robot, specifically for our Middle School students.

Blackfriars is looking for sponsors and mentors to guide our Robotics Club students in 2024. If you can help, please contact Matthew Wallace at [email protected]


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