A robotics team from St Columba Anglican School (SCAS) is preparing to compete in the “FIRST Australia Duel Down Under” at Macquarie University in Sydney. The large scale robotics competition brings together students and mentors to build robots that perform in a competitive and fun environment.

Aided by their mentors, the students work together to design, build, program and drive a robot that will complete a variety of tasks. Robot drivers need to score points while fending off other teams. The games are like team sports and robots are not supposed to be intentionally harmed.

It’s been called the hardest fun you’ll ever have.

This is the first time students from SCAS will compete in the 3 day competition which attracts around 30 teams from Australia and the South Pacific.

The team of students from years 8 to 11 built the robot from the ground up in the Advanced Manufacturing Workshop at SCAS. Their robot weights 52kg, moves at a speed of up to 30 kilometres per hour and can extend to a height of 225cm. It can move autonomously, pick up power cubes the size of a milk crate and place them around the course.

Year 9 student, Thomas Crundwell, wrote the program that controls the robot. While he had some prior programming experience, Thomas had to learn the computer language required to program the robot.

“It’s been amazing learning these new skills, working as part of a team and learning from our mistakes,” Thomas said.

The challenge has taught the students skills such as teamwork, collaboration, creativity, engineering and programming.

Dan Zavone is the Director of STEAM at St Columba and one of the team mentors. He says the challenge allows students to grapple with university level skills but in an environment of cooperation and fun.

“The competition allows our students to consolidate and grow their skills in design, manufacturing, coding and understanding how sciences and mathematics are used to solve real world robotics problems,” Mr Zavone said.

“It is reinforcing all the STEM elements into one co-curricular activity. There’s maths, there’s science, CAD design and engineering. And of course there’s a cool robot and who doesn’t love that?”