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Somersfield wins overseas robotics event

Robotics champions: From left, excluding Ottawa Robotics Competition officials in yellow, Carraic O’Donnell, Madeleine Yashar, coach Mark Brown (back), Kieran Kimberley, Nicholas Bonanno, Grayson Toogood, Alex Downey, Kirsty Pollett, Kairo Morton. Missing from the picture is staff member Irene Pimentel

The Somersfield Academy Lego robotics team has won a regional competition in Canada.

A team of eight students along with team coach Mark Brown, director of innovation at Somersfield Academy, and staff member Irene Pimentel, travelled to Ottawa over the holiday weekend to compete in the IEEE Ottawa Robotics Competition.

They achieved first place with an overall score of 97 out of 100.

P6 student Alex Downey explained that the competition included three parts.

“There was the robot itself, a written engineering-style paper and poster board, and a presentation followed by a Q&A.”

He added that the team’s “King of the Hill” robot finished second overall in the elimination-style playoffs, and credited the strength of the team’s thought processes and presentation, which put them into first place overall.

Mr Brown described their robot, and what it was designed to do. “The ‘King of the Hill’ robot had to traverse a 6ft-long course, going over speed bumps and around walls which moved between the matches — the robot had to be able to see or sense the walls, and adapt its course accordingly.

“The robot was the Lego EV3 platform, and it had an ultrasonic sensor on board, two drive motors, was equipped with tracks, and a gyroscopic directional finding system. The programming had three embedded loops with an integrated ‘if/or’ switch.”

The students worked on it from January through to May, four to five hours a week, explained the team coach.

Mr Brown credits the experience provided by the team’s veteran members for their success in the competition.

“Kairo Morton, Madeleine Yashar, and Carraic O’Donnell were superstars this year,” he said.

“Their participation was supported by huge contributions from former team members, and now mentors, Joshua Kirk and Robin Horsfield.”

The competition was a first for several of the team members, including Kieran Kimberley, Nicholas Bonanno, and Grayson Toogood.

“Each was impressed by the strength of competition as well as the importance placed on robotics in top overseas schools,” he said. The achievement follows another top performance by Somersfield’s VEX robotics team in February, when they reached the semi-finals in a 54-team tournament of 14-to-18-year-olds.

VEX is a system for building robotics geared towards students and adults. Somersfield’s VEX team members range in age from 11 to 15. Staff members Karl Stewart and Irene Pimentel were important to both teams’ success, as well as a “supportive administration” at Somersfield Academy, Mr Brown said.

“We are part of the international VEX Robotics competition. This was our second year for that team. We are most excited that Warwick Academy and Saltus will join the tournament we will host next year and we welcome further entries.

“Our robotics programme will grow again next year to include two local teams on the VEX IQ platform in addition to our overseas VEX and Lego competition teams and camp offerings.”

• Any individuals or home schools interested in learning about how they can be involved can contact Mark Brown at mbrown@somersfield.bm