24 March 2017

The St Catherine's spirit was alive at the FIRST Robotics Competition

​​​This was the first year that St Catherine's entered the FIRST Robotics Competition with our robot, Lincoln, and our team of 16 girls did exceptionally well. We had six weeks to design, build, code and test a robot that would collect, transport and deliver gears and climb a rope. Together, everyone worked, both individually and collaboratively, to come up with ideas and solutions to challenges. Many girls gave up some of their summer holidays to come into school to work on initial designs and prototypes.

Once school started, everyone was staying back at school three times a week to continue designing, building and testing Lincoln. Teddy, our coder, had the difficult job of programming the robot, her code instrumental to the autonomous portion of the competition. After rejecting a stick with nails in search of the perfect rope climber our positivity and determination led us to produce a robot with eyes and a tongue that we are extremely proud of.

In the few weeks between the build season and the competition, we worked on making a spare gear collector, watching previous competitions and developing strategy plans.

The competition was held over an exciting three days at Sydney Olympic Park. We introduced ourselves to other teams, looked for teams with complementary skills and found ourselves exchanging ideas and sharing equipment with teams from Australia, Taiwan, China and Brazil. During each match our robot would compete with two other robots as an 'alliance' to then compete against other 'alliances'. Each match between two alliances had fifteen seconds of pre-programmed instructions followed by two minutes and fifteen seconds of operator controlled movement. During the qualifying matches, we reached a rank of 6th place and at the end of the qualifying round we had an overall rank of 12th place which saw us chosen to one of the eight quarter final alliances. With two other teams from Ulladulla and Narrabri, we played against the best ranking alliance and unfortunately got eliminated from the competition. Despite this, we were very pleased with our achievement for a rookie team and were thrilled when we won the Spirit Award, which celebrated enthusiasm, partnership and teamwork. 

Whilst at the competition, many team members volunteered with roles such as handing out safety glasses, connecting radios to the competition server and team queuing.

During the competition we faced some technical challenges such as our rope climber not working for some of the practice rounds. However, after some advice from our mentors, we attached a wrench to the climbing mechanism and were able to consistently climb the rope after that. It was an amazing moment seeing the whole team so happy and excited when the rope climber finally worked. 

Being a part of the St Catherine's FIRST robotics team was an amazing opportunity, providing us with many skills we will be able to carry with us into the future. Not only did we learn about robotics and engineering but also valuable skills in communication and teamwork, making new friends in all year groups. 

A big thank you to Mr Lambden, Lee Braithwaite and UNSW Engineering students and Professor Chris Lu for mentoring us and for all their help and support. We also thank Open Colleges Group and the P&F Associa​tion​ for their financial support. 

Written by Mia Whalley (Year 9), Junias Tjanaria (Year 10) and Tara Hercz (Year 9)
Senior School Robotics Team