Robotics teams qualify for world championships – at the very first attempt

Two QE teams have won places at the world championships of a robotics competition – even though it was the first year that the School has entered.

The Gearsquad and HYBRID teams both qualified for the VEX IQ Robotics international finals in Kentucky at the end of April with a strong showing at the national final, which took place at Birmingham’s NEC as part of The Big Bang – a major event for young scientists and engineers.

The QE boys’ achievements in Birmingham follow a string of record-breaking successes against 29 other teams at two regional rounds of the competition in London. Both QE teams are drawn from the School’s new robotics club.

""Congratulating them, Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “The boys were absolutely ecstatic. Gearsquad qualified thanks to their excellent performance on the day, while HYBRID also picked up a qualification berth at the world championships because of their very high UK ranking.”

""Mr Noonan said the day in Birmingham began with a briefing by Bridie Gaynor, the official in charge of all VEX competitions in the UK. “She gave detailed instructions to all drivers for the driver-skills element of the proceedings.”

Competition then began, including both driving and autonomous control of the robots. “We scored admirably, with Gearsquad leading this competition for most of the day. They matched their highest-ever driving score of 65, and followed up with an autonomous score of 102 – a new record!” HYBRID secured a driver score of 56 and an autonomous score of 27.

""The attentions of both teams quickly turned to the teamwork challenge, in which the boys held national records following their performance in the regional rounds. “The competition was tremendously demanding, with driving, presenting and programming all presenting their challenges – and they still faced the additional challenge of presenting their STEM research projects,” said Mr Noonan. The Gearsquad boys presented their research for an autonomous wheelchair which could climb stairs and the HYBRID team set our their ideas for an autonomous robot which could assist people who are infirm at home.

""Both sets of boys had to squeeze these presentations in between teamwork alliance matches, in which the boys were paired with various teams from around the country. At the end of this section, the Gearsquad finished first and HYBRID third, which meant that they would not be paired together in the teamwork finals.

""“A nerve-biting finale ensued; teamwork alliances from around the country worked together and began to rack up considerable scores,” said Mr Noonan. “There was great tension in the air as the previous teamwork record score of 65 points – which had been achieved by the two QE teams working together in the London regional rounds – was eclipsed by another alliance. “ HYBRID were paired with HBS Synergy, a high-flying team from The Henrietta Barnett School. “They proceeded to establish a new UK record of 71 points in the final, which was a phenomenal achievement for the collegiality of both teams. However, not to be outdone, the final remaining alliance of HBS Vexplosions (another Henrietta Barnett team) and Gearsquad matched this score, and tied the competition!”

""A judging panel member then ruled that Gearsquad and HBS Vexplosions were the winners, since the rules stated that any teams matching the score of the previous highest-scoring alliance should take first place.

“At the award ceremony the real highlight of the day came; first of all HYBRID won the Design Award, and then Gearsquad won not only the Teamwork Challenge title, but also the STEM Research Award and Excellence Award for the best team in competition – a great achievement on a national scale,” Mr Noonan concluded.