Robotic future in student hands

Showing the way: Elizabeth Legge, Ebony Nicholas and Alisha Cooper practise with the Megabot they hope will help the Camden Haven High School team bring home the First Robotics Competition rookie prize. Photos PETER GLEESON

Showing the way: Elizabeth Legge, Ebony Nicholas and Alisha Cooper practise with the Megabot they hope will help the Camden Haven High School team bring home the First Robotics Competition rookie prize. Photos PETER GLEESON

WARNING Will Robinson - there are some very smart students at Camden Haven High School who could be the future of robotics.

The school hosted a Robotics Expo at Camden Haven Surf Club on Saturday, attracting 30 spectators of all ages, including some retired engineers.

Robotics coordinator James Langley said the school has been involved in the First Leggo League since 2010 and were state champions in 2012.

"As a result we were invited by Google to be part of the First Robotics Competition Australia which takes place at Sydney Olympic Park on March 16, 17, and 18.

Supported by Macquarie University, the contest brings together students from years 8 to 12, and their mentors, to build robots that perform in a competitive but encouraging environment against teams from all over the world.

It is only the second year the competition has featured in Australia and, as a rookie team, Camden Haven High has received sponsorship via Google and the Argosy Foundation of Milwaukee, USA.

"Argosy sponsor rookie teams so I applied," Mr Langley said.

"The registration fee [for the contest] is $8000 which covers the base Megabot kit [valued at $15,000] which comes from America."

Camden Haven High (CHH) will have two teams competing against 50 teams from USA, Taiwan, India, Singapore, China, and Australia.

"It is intensely strategic," Mr Langley said.

CHH will have two drive teams of three students, a pit crew of five students, a team captain and two negotiators.

"Only five team members are allowed in the pit area at a time."

The Megabot weighs about 25 kilograms and must start in the neutral zone.

"From there it carries a number of balls over obstacles to reach the attacking zone. Once there you shoot for goals," Mr Langley said.

The top four teams will compete in the world championship in the US in April.

"There is an incredible degree of engagement and student learning is at a maximum.

"This is definitely the high point of our robotics involvement over the last six years, and they will have a whole lot of fun as well.

Goal: Year 7 students Daniel Ferguson and Ben White work on their soccer bot at the Camden Haven High School Robotics Expo.

Goal: Year 7 students Daniel Ferguson and Ben White work on their soccer bot at the Camden Haven High School Robotics Expo.

"My joy is seeing the development of the students. My job is education and anything that puts a Bunsen burner under learning is exciting."

CHH is the only school engaged in robotics at this level on the Mid-North Coast.

The other positive outcome of the school's involvement is the ratio of girls who take part.

"We have 50/50 participation on our teams. It's an effective way of getting girls involved in STEM [science, technology, engineering, maths] disciplines," Mr Langley said.

"This is a critical focus of mine as numbers of girls doing STEM subjects has been going down dramatically."

Also at the weekend expo the year 7 robotics showed off their Robocup soccer bot skills in preparation for a competition to be hosted by NSW University.

The story Robotic future in student hands first appeared on Port Macquarie News.

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