Student-built robot wins design award, grand final berth

After an 11-hour day, numerous challenges and some incredible match play, Blackfriars’ Robotics Club students have come away from a major tournament with a second-place finish.

Over the weekend, the students – Thomas Pile (Year 7), Anthony Phuy (Year 8), Dan Shyjo and Michele Vial (Year 9) and Patrick Seal (Year 10) – competed at the annual FIRST Tech Challenge state qualifying event at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct.

As well as the come-from-behind, second-place finish, the boys won a design award for their robot’s custom-made grabbing claw.

STEM Coordinator Matthew Wallace said the team performed incredibly well in the grand final, particularly after some hiccups and a slide down the ladder in earlier rounds.

“Our team was young and inexperienced and, at the end of the day, they learned a lot,” Mr Wallace said.

“They are excited for next year’s competition, with many improvements to our robot in mind.”

The FIRST Tech Challenge involves student-built robots competing in a series of matches. This year, the robots were required to place mini traffic cones within a playing field.

During the first 30 seconds, robots score points in autonomous mode, where moves are pre-programed. In the next two minutes, robots are controlled by two game controllers. In the final 30 seconds, the “End Game”, bonus points are up for grabs.

The Blackfriars team started well, finishing fourth after the first two rounds. After some bad luck in the next two rounds, they slid to eighth, before beginning the steady climb to the grand final.

“In the first match of the grand final, we became stuck when the playing field broke trapping our robot between the wall and the foam playing surface,” Mr Wallace said.

“In the second match, we were able to play out a draw. This forced a third match. The boys played their best round of the day where they were able to place a lot of cones and score bonus points in the End Game. The finish was nail-biting and the rest of the teams cheered on the underdogs but, unfortunately, we lost, 52 to 43.”

Patrick said robotics was “like trying to solve a problem that changes over time”.

“The solution may be simple, but not the easiest to achieve,” he said.

Thomas enjoyed being part of Robotics Club, describing it as a “fun way to experiment with different things”.

“It is also a great way to learn about building, coding, 3D modelling and lots more,” he said.

He said the weekend’s competition was fun: “Everyone supported each other, and it was just a positive environment in general. The competition was a blast and it was a very enjoyable experience.”


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