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8 December 2021

Robotic approach to learning pays off

A group of Blackfriars students has been working hard on the “three Rs” –…

A group of Blackfriars students has been working hard on the “three Rs” – reading, writing and robotics.

The team – made up of George Sherlock (Year 12), Patrick Seal (Year 9), Dan Shyjo (Y8), Luke Tsavdaridis (Year 8) and Aaron Nguyen (Year 8) ­– last weekend competed at the FIRST Tech Challenge South Australian Championship at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct.

“Blacks Bots” beat all other school-based teams competing on the day, finishing third overall, and qualifying for the national championships in July.

“So, we’ll get a chance all of Term 1 and Term 2 to improve the robot and get ready for that. We found out where we can improve and make modifications,” said teacher Matthew Wallace, who worked with the Robotics Club boys to create and program the robot.

“It was quite a good day, given it was really our first competition.”

The students were required to design, build and program the robot for a specific task – in this case, delivering freight, in the form of balls and cubes, to specific areas of a playing arena within a certain timeframe.

“And there are quirky little rules that go along with it,” Mr Wallace said.

“The boys have to program remote controls with certain commands so they can drive the robot … they get scored based on what it does.”

The boys were mentored by engineer Stephen Kennedy, from BAE Systems, who came to Blackfriars once a week to work with the team.

“We actually won the Innovation Award, because our robot was significantly different to the other robots … because Stephen gave us hints and did brainstorming sessions with the kids and tried to steer away from the obvious solutions to the problem,” Mr Wallace said.

“The ‘Think’ Award (for the engineering portfolio) they say is the highest award, and they won second place in that.

“Dan (Shyjo) wrote up the engineering portfolio … in one day. Everyone had input, but Dan pulled it all together.”

Mr Wallace encouraged more students to become involved in Robotics Club in 2022. He planned to create several teams that would target different competitions throughout the year.