22 August 2023

The TSS robot competes!

First outing for our robot!

As the sun was rising at 4.30am on Friday 23rd June, 4 students and Mr Kirkham set off on a 4-hour journey to the 'FIRST Tech More Than Robots' competition at The University of Cambridge, with lots of chatter about what they might see, along with a few nerves about the day ahead. 

The competition involves 500 young innovators and their robots going head-to-head on the game field and presenting to industry judges as they compete to be crowned FIRST Tech Challenge UK National Champions.

Although the competition hall was at first a daunting sight for the students, they reassured themselves and signed in, were directed to their team pit and set up. The atmosphere was positive, with lots of other teams showing an interest and offering assistance should it be needed. There were also 'techies' who ventured over to check everything was working, before the team was ready for their first round in the competition. 

The robot's grabber had failed in testing the night before and the team spent the first hour trying to fix the problem. Realising that it was a weight issue which would need additional parts to fix not available in their kit box, they discussed an alternative strategy of going for points other than those available for grabbing, such as by pushing objects into scoring zones.

Prior to competing, the robot had to complete an inspection of height, width, and depth, and a check that the main components were working and the electrical system functioning as it should. With a little tweaking, the team received a pass and were able to start their first round. 

Spectators watch robotics competition

The team’s robot was placed in the starting area ready to play. The countdown began and then the robot was moved towards the target cone. With lots of twisting and tight maneuvering, the cone managed to get stuck under the robot and it was left with the wheels spinning aimlessly. Sadly, this was a no point round. 

Robotics competition arena surrounded by competitiors

Students compete in a robotics competition

The next five rounds were similar but, as Mr Kirkham reminded the team, this was a championship and they were up against far more experienced colleges and universities. In fact, they were so thrilled to be participating nothing else mattered.

After lunch, the judges discussed the build of the robot with the team and asked how they thought they had done over the last few months of build and preparation. Isabel and Jasmine took the lead and impressed the judges greatly. In the final round, playing against a university team, Hani took the controls and with absolute skill scored 3 points by the time the counter ended. Though the other team scored 35, no one cared! It was amazing to watch and a glorious moment for the team. 

Whilst the team were packing up to embark on their 4-hour journey home, The Swanage School's name was called out as the winner of the Judges' Award which was a fantastic end to a great day!

Screen displaying The Swanage School as winner of the judge's award

The students had an excellent time, chatted to plenty of other teams and came away with many ideas of how to improve their robot's performance in future events. 

Despite a very long day - they left when it dark and arrived back when it was dark - the students were a credit to themselves, parents and their teachers! Congratulations to Isabel, Nerwen, Jasmine and Hani.

Four students in robotics team grey t-shirts pose for a photo

You can read more about the robotics programme and competition on the FIRSTTech Challenge UK website.


Friday 23 June 2023, University of Cambridge, FIRSTTech Competition

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