18 robots, 18 teams competing for one place World Championship in the United States. VEX Robotics organises competition annually – each year with a different game – to bring students into the exciting world of robotics. Kaat and I started off this year with three members and a new game – Starstruck. We had to build a robot that can throw stars and cubes over the fence, or like some other team did, squeeze them under. To get extra points, we have 15 seconds at the beginning of each game to score using preprogrammed actions, or, even more impressively, make our robot hang itself on a pole.
When you only have three members and the internet for reference, the two huge boxes of kit that you won in a competition seems daunting to figure out. There is the simple screws and screwdrivers, wheels and gears and motors. And then you see other weird bubbly things that you do not even know what to type on Google search to unravel its mysteries. Luckily we had our wits and experience from last year’s competition to assist us through this challenge.
Our journey to our final robot was a never ending bumpy road trip, sometimes it seems like we were going so fast and so close to the final destination, as in getting the robot to work, and then we just hit a brick wall and had to start all over again. Each of our sessions on Wednesdays has left me with a different feeling: frustration, fulfilment, hopefulness, despair. And all of these emotions kept us trying.
The competition itself was everything I imagined it to be, seeing other people who shares the same interest as us is encouraging, especially other all girl teams that have very impressive robots. Watching the robots in action, all of these different ideas, built with time and care; some works, others less so. It is a learning experience for everyone involved. The competition hall was not bigger than our own sports hall and it was packed with students from year 9 to 13 and their teachers, some have guided their students’ in the construction of the robot and continue to apply the right amount of pressure on them to get the best performance, some had no idea how this competition worked but enjoyed every bit of it.
Our robot was not very far ahead in the competition, partly because by some stroke of bad luck, our motors for the wheels was glitching throughout three of our matches, but we gritted our teeth and tried multiple ways to fix it between the matches. In recognition of our exemplary effort and perseverance, Kaat and I were presented with the Judges Award. We are proud of our achievement although we did not win the competition, we want to try again next year. We also want to continue this legacy and let other students to participate in this competition after us. And may this experience inspire them in the STEM field as much as it has inspired us.
Ivon, Year 12