QE senior roboteers achieved the best-ever result for a UK team after qualifying for the VEX EDR Robotics World Championships at their very first attempt.
The HYBRID Alpha team amassed five wins at the finals in Louisville, Kentucky, which are the culmination of a global event that has just been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest robotics competition. And although they were unable to match the feat of QE’s junior boys in the parallel VEX IQ competition – who were crowned the UK’s first-ever world champions – they nonetheless returned from the US with a wealth of happy memories.
Year 10 pupil Deshraam Ganeshamoorthy, who was the robot driver for HYBRID Alpha, said their performance exceeded even their own expectations: “To finish with five wins and the highest rank of any UK team puts it all into perspective – the scale of the challenge when taking on the ‘super teams’ from other parts of the world. Hopefully what all the UK teams achieved here can spur on the next generation to success at the EDR championships.”
QE’s Head of Technology, Michael Noonan, who accompanied the teams together with Chemistry teacher Miss Katie Paske, added that the senior boys had “found the experience to be thoroughly enriching”.
The VEX EDR World Championships, which is open to pupils from Years 10–13 (or ‘high school’, in American parlance), bring together 600 élite teams from around the world, pitting against each other national champions from 46 different countries, as well as state champions from around the US.
Two senior QE teams took part, HYBRID Alpha and HYBRID Beta, both made up of boys from Years 10 and 12. Both teams qualified for the world championships after strong performances in regional and UK national championships, with Alpha winning the Excellence award at the regional finals at Stowe School as well as being crowned Nationals Skills Champions. Beta were a last-minute qualifier, winning the Design Award at the very end of the national championships in Telford.
Their trip to the US began with a 5.30am start and a long flight to Louisville, via Chicago. The following day was given over to rest and recuperation, with the boys taking in some of the local sights, such as the Muhammad Ali Centre and museum, and the Louisville Slugger factory, where the famous eponymous baseball bat is manufactured. The evening was spent in a flurry of preparation for the competition’s various challenges, or games.
The following day saw another early start, the boys rising at 6.30am to get the best possible chance to practise and to discuss their tactics with other teams with whom they were put in alliances. From that point on, the daily routine was a challenging one: 12 hours’ non-stop practice and competition, all of which involved communicating with other teams from around the world.
QE’s teams ended up being paired with, or competing against, teams from Bahrain, Lebanon, China, Japan, Canada and even war-torn Syria, as well as various state champions from around the US.
“Amid very strong competition the boys thrived, recording some of their highest scores of the season,” said Mr Noonan. “However, given the highly dedicated and highly funded approach of some of the US and China teams, even their best was at times not enough to turn the fixture.”
Nevertheless, Alpha distinguished themselves with their strong performance in a divisional match, becoming the first UK team ever to reach the final 16 at the world championship – beating another London team, from Fortismere School in Muswell Hill, to this honour by a matter of a few moments.
Alpha were paired for this match with a team from Rolling Hills, California. “Hybrid’s efforts were valiant, but excellent defence from the Chinese and Canadian combination saw their opponents win by a narrow margin of 115-92.”
Alpha’s disappointment at the loss was later rendered bittersweet when one of these two opposing teams went on to remain undefeated in all their remaining games and eventually be crowned World Teamwork Champions.
There were two more treats in store for the boys: they were able to see the unveiling of the newest robotics game, Turning Point, and they had just enough time to enjoy the thrilling rides and attractions of the Kentucky Kingdom theme park before heading for home.
- The Alpha team comprised: Year 12 pupil Aadi Desai, with Deshraam Ganeshamoorthy, Bhargab Ghoshal, James Tan and Ukendar Vadivel, all from Year 10. Beta were: Dilan Sheth, of Year 12, together with Year 10 boys Sunay Challa, Devin Karia, Daniel Radzik-Rahman and Yai Sagolsem.