Robotics team wins place in FIRST Tech Challenge National Championships

A group of Blackfriars students is preparing to take its robotic smarts to the national stage.

The students, part of the school’s Robotics Club, have won a spot in next month’s FIRST Tech Challenge Australia National Championship, at Macquarie University, Sydney.

The BlackBots team – made up of Patrick Seal (Year 11), Dan Shyjo (Year 10), Michele Vial (Year 10), Anthony Phuy (Year 9), Joshua Feneley (Year 9), Michael Lambis (Year 7), Mustafa Ghanemie (Year 7), Ben Colliver (Year 7) and Noah Carapella (Year 7) – gained entry to the national event after winning the “Think Award” at the weekend’s FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition.

The competition required students to design, build and program their robot to pick up pentagon-shaped items and place them on a sloping board. They also earned points for launching paper planes with a very specific trajectory.

The team was awarded the “Think Award” for the best engineering portfolio.

Robotics Club members (front, from left) Ben Colliver, Oscar Smith, Dan Shyjo, Michael Lambis, Luca Di Stefano, (back) Patrick Seal, Noah Carapella, Anthony Phuy, Thomas Pile and STEM Coordinator Matthew Wallace.

“For the engineering portfolio, we had to document and showcase to the judges what we have learnt over the year and what we had to face and how we overcame those challenges,” said Dan, who, with Michele, compiled and wrote the report. “We were really surprised (when we found out we won). It caught us off guard, but we were so happy.”

Dan, who has been part of the Robotics Club since he was in Year 7, said the team was ready for the national challenge: “It’s going to be our first national experience, so we’re all really excited.”

Patrick, a 2024 Prefect, said the competition was “lots of stress, but very exciting”. “We were building on the day and it was down to the wire … making sure everything was perfect,” Patrick said.

Blackfriars STEM Coordinator Matthew Wallace was proud of the boys.

“They did really well, because there was very little input from me,” Mr Wallace said. “A lot of the other teams have engineers … but the boys put together the portfolio on their own and they deserved to win.”

The team was now working hard to prepare for the National Championships.

“We have to get the bot to a little higher standard before we go interstate,” Mr Wallace said. “We had some new equipment that we were working with, so we were unfamiliar with it. But this has given us some time to improve on some things. This year, we’re rebuilding with a lot of young team members, starting the robot from scratch, really.”

Dan encouraged other students to join the Robotics Club: “It’s really about the experience. We’re working together as a team and, over time, we build a connection, where you learn how to face obstacles and work together really well.”

Several other students have been part of the Robotics Club throughout 2023, but were unable to attend the weekend’s competition.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics started in the United States in 1989 and in Australia in 2006. Worldwide, there are 32,600 teams made up of more than 350,000 students from nearly 80 countries.

About the Think Award* 

This judged award is given to the team that best reflects the journey the team took as they experienced the engineering design process during the build season. The engineering content within the portfolio is the key reference for judges to help identify the most deserving team.

The team’s engineering content must focus on the design and build stage of the team’s robot. The team must be able to share or provide additional detailed information that is helpful for the judges. This could include descriptions of the underlying science and mathematics of the robot design and game strategies, the designs, redesigns, successes, and opportunities for improvement.

Required criteria for the Think Award:

  • Team must show respect and Gracious Professionalism® to everyone they meet at a FIRST Tech Challenge event.
  • Team must submit an engineering portfolio.
  • Engineering portfolio must have engineering content. The engineering content could include entries describing examples of the underlying science, mathematics and game strategies in a summary fashion.
  • The engineering portfolio must provide examples that show the team has a clear understanding of the engineering design process, including an example of lessons learned.

*Information courtesy FIRST Tech Challenge

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