QE’s roboteers begin 2022 in optimistic mood after strong performances on home territory at the largest UK robotics tournament since the 2020 VEX Nationals.
Thirty-two junior teams, including six from QE, took part in the North London Regional tournament, which QE hosted in the Shearly Hall.
The Year 9 members of QE’s Gearsquad team took the prestigious Excellence Award, while another Year 9 team, Nova, and their competition partners were named Tournament Champions.
Head of Technology Michael Noonan, said that while some of QE’s teams had already performed creditably in competitions earlier in the season, for others “this represented their maiden voyage into competitive robotics, and, with such a highly competitive field, was a thrilling prospect for all.”
In addition to Gearsquad and Nova, the other Year 9 teams were Cyberforce and Shattersquad, while Year 8 was represented by Eclipse and Vexcelsior.
The visitors’ line-up was quite diverse, Mr Noonan explained: “Traditional powerhouses Greig City Academy, Henrietta Barnett (HBS) and Merchant Taylors’ (MTS) were joined by relative newcomers such as North London Collegiate School, alongside Nottingham University Academy Of Science And Technology (NUAST), Lochinver House Preparatory School, Haberdashers’ Boys’ and an independent team.”
Mr Noonan set out how the day’s competition unfolded: “The pace was easy at first, with no score from practice or the first ten games exceeding 60 points.
“However, it was a double alliance involving QE teams which pushed things forward in game 12 and 13. Firstly, a tournament high 78 being posted by a combination of QE newcomers Shattersquad and MTS Myopians, followed up by an even more impressive 83 posted by QE’s Year 9 Nova team and NUAST Triceratops. It was clear from this point on that the bar had been raised, with MTS Myopians in particular impressing. QE’s Gearsquad, Nova, and Cyberforce seemed to be battling it out behind them for the highest rankings spots, albeit the latter team were already securely qualified.
Yet as the day progressed, the picture began to change. “Scoring totals continued to rise, and the 100 bar was first broken, then shattered, by competitors including QE teams. This time it was MTS and Gearsquad who set themselves firmly out from the crowd – an astounding 132 points seeming to be the score to beat.
“When qualification had finished and rankings were tabulated, QE had secured 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 13th, 23rd and 26th – the latter three places being secured by teams in their very first event. This placed all QE teams in a good position heading for the final, with the Skills Challenge drawing to a close. QE in fact dominated the Skills Challenge, with Gearsquad taking first place, Nova finishing second on 97 points and Shattersquad finishing sixth. Gearsquad’s top score of 109 is currently also in the World top 50, and the highest in the UK this season to date!
“As the finals matches approached, frantic practice saw all teams hoping to finish the day on a high and capture the coveted teamwork Champion Award. The judges at this point were watching on with great interest, as the Judges Award, Design Award and Excellence awards had still to be given out, too.
“In the end, it had appeared that Gearsquad had posted an unassailable score: a whopping 110 alongside the HBS Vextreme team. However, as was the case throughout the day, it was the pairing of Nova and MTS who would have the last laugh, and their incredible 125 score secured both teams their Tournament Champion title. The judges gave MTS X_O_Limit the Judges Award, and the Design Award was secured by HBS Spark.
“However the final and most coveted of prize of the day – the Excellence Award – was ultimately given to Gearsquad: their incredible design notebook and their presentations, as well as their top ranking in Skills and Teamwork, made them impossible to ignore for the gong.”
Pranav Challa, of Gearsquad, said: “We worked hard and it paid off, with hours of effort leading up to our win. The day was extremely fun, and it was great to see so many teams in attendance at a live, in-person event.”
Pranav’s teammate, Muhammad Ammaar Hurzuk, added: “Although the QE teams were competitors, we all worked together to produce some increasingly capable robots to compete with the variety of schools that came.”
And Zak Ahmed, of Nova, reflected on his team taking the honours as Tournament Champion: “Winning the competition was a feat we would never have thought to achieve, but using our victory, we will continue to design and build, learning from our mistakes.”
Mr Noonan added that teams throughout the day generally impressed the guest judges – who included Old Elizabethan Dylan Vekaria (2013–2020) with “their astute understanding of mechanics, programming and robotics design principles”.
He paid tribute both to the judges and to the Year 11 volunteers who helped out. “Special mention must go to Dipesh Dhavala in Year 11, who was superb throughout in his commentary of qualification and finals rounds.”
Pranay Chawla, of Shattersquad, praised the event’s “really friendly atmosphere”, while his teammate, added: “It was great to see a variety of teams that each played the game their own unique way.”