Girls work on their robots at the competition
29 March 2019

Who's 'Who' in the robotics zoo?

The St Catherine’s senior robotics team, the St Cathodes, once again competed at the FIRST Robotics, South Pacific Regional competition held at Sydney Olympic Park over 15-17 March. The three-day competition challenges the ingenuity, grit and problem-solving skills of all the students competing. The St Cathodes team is made up of over 20 dedicated students from Years 9–12 who have a broad range of skills and talents, working together to complete a new challenge each year. 

Girls are watching how their robot is doing while competiing 

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition is one of the major robotics competitions for high school students in the world, with over 7000 teams participating around the world. All teams are required to design, program and build an industrial-sized robot under strict rules, within a short time frame. On January 6, the game rules are released and the clock starts ticking, leaving only six weeks to design, build and test a robot. 

This year’s game Destination Deep Space was developed in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969. Based around loading and securing cargo, our robot, affectionately named 'Who', was designed to perform two tasks during the game. Firstly by retrieving and positioning large disk-shaped 'hatch panels' on to a cargo ship, the team aimed to score points and to allow other robots in the alliance to deliver the cargo pieces large beach ball-sized balls. Requiring precision manoeuvring under pressure and aided by a live-feed camera, our expert drivers Elisabeth Cola, Sophia Pinter and new team member Grace Gay, were able to reliably secure the panels and consistently score points for their alliance.

The second system the girls designed was a deployable ramp allowing other robots to drive over our robot and on to a high platform at the end of each match. This allows the team to score bonus points which could potentially tip each match in our alliance's favour. While the ramp was able to deploy reliably, many teams found it challenging to align themselves onto the ramp without being able to practise the manoeuvre prior to each match. This resulted in the feature being under-utilised over the course of the competition and will provide a valuable lesson into the future.   

St Catherine's student working on a computer at the robotics competitionSt Catherine's robotics team watching other team compete

Pitted against 60 other teams from around Australia and internationally the standard of the competition this year was particularly high. Despite this challenge, St Cathodes still managed to finish 20th out of the 60 teams at the end of the randomly assigned pool matches. This was not quite enough for the team to make the eight teams that continue on to compete in the final playoffs. Despite this small disappointment, the season was still highly rewarding with the girls gaining valuable experience and confidence in what they are able to achieve in robotics. The St Cathodes maintained their enthusiasm and positivity throughout the competition and were the epitome gracious professionalism.

On behalf of the team, we are  immensely grateful for the financial support from our sponsor AUP IT. Their generous contribution enabled us to enter the competition this year and we look forward to working with them into the future as they also provide professional mentoring support to the girls for the coding and software aspects of the program. We would also like to thank the Australian Computer Society for providing education and mentoring support throughout the year.  

Mr Rene Mercer
Director of STEM and Innovation

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