Blackbots team members: From Left, Tapas Kant, Jimmy August, Austen Jones, Maryjane Richards.

Twelve Hawke’s Bay students will compete in two global robotic competitions in Texas in April.

Head down to Lucknow Primary School Hall out of school hours and you’ll likely find a group of Year 10-12 students hard at work building a robot.

With guidance from Lucknow Primary Headmaster Brendon White, six Hawke’s Bay students — Austen Jones, Tapas Kant, Ella White, Ruby Langford, Jimmy August from Havelock North High School, plus Maryjane Richards from Karamu High School  — are creating and fine-tuning their robot in preparation for the First Robotics World Cup in Houston, Texas, in April.  (Their team also comprises three Auckland students).

The team have been given certain parameters and a particular challenge to work with for the international competition. From that they are developing a robot that will compete in  a power play match moving plastic cones  back and forth across a court, placing them on poles of differing heights. Three teams will take to the court at once and play a series of 11 two and half minute matches before winners go into a final draw.

Sounds simple? But it’s not, says Brendon White. “It’s a sport for the mind and hands on too. It’s a constant process of trial and error. You’re almost never finished.”

Brendan White and Maryjane Richards

Maryjane does a lot of the coding for the robot on her computer.  She has been involved with computers since 2017 when she joined a junior team who began the sport by making Lego robots. Now she is hooked. The sport “intrigues her,” she says, “it’s always changing and developing” and she thinks that when she finishes school, robots will be part of her career path.

Austen Jones only joined robotics this year but has been helping build the robot with team mate Tapas Kant. They have had to experiment with a pulley system so the robot can lift up a cone in its set of claws and place it on the differing size poles.

As well as developing skills in science, technology and engineering the robotics sport is all about collaboration and team work. “And it’s giving students hands-on experience learning skills they’re going to need in the future,” says Brendon. “What they’re doing now is what the future will look like.”

With two principals, Brendon and Ricardo Fox, Principal of Mayfair School, committed to Robotics in Hawke’s Bay, the region is becoming a  centre for the sport. The National Secondary School Robotics Competition took place at Toitoi last year with 14 teams from across the region competing together with a school from Auckland and Queenstown.

As well  the senior team, calling themselves the Blackbots, competing in the First Tech Challenge at Texas, a junior Blackbots team of six Year 7-9 Hawke’s Bay students — Aidan Summersby, Pete August, Isla Atkins, Max Atkins, Nelson Bawden and Annabelle Ra — will compete in the First Lego League competition in Texas. 

If you want support the Hawke’s Bay Students’ trip to Houston, Texas, go to their Give A Little page

C’mon some you HB high-tech businesses … these could be your future employees!

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


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