Robotics students building on success

Miles Justice, John Yang and their teammates at Shawnigan Lake School spent many nights preparing for the VEX Robotics competition.

  • May. 6, 2016 8:00 p.m.


Miles Justice, John Yang and their teammates at Shawnigan Lake School spent many nights until dawn in recent weeks in the school’s robotics lab preparing their robot for the VEX Robotics competition.

The annual international competition, held this year on April 20-23 in Louisville, Kentucky, drew hundreds of students from dozens of countries from across the globe, including teams from as far afield as Chile, Ireland, Thailand and Syria.

Justice, a Grade 12 student from Maple Bay, and Yang, a Grade 11 student from Shenzhen, China, were among eight students, in two teams, from the school that qualified to go to the competition this year.

With more than 150 teams in B.C. alone competing to attend, and only eight from the province qualifying, the students said they felt honoured that the school succeeded in attaining two of the coveted spots.

But that only made them work harder on preparing their robots, and they said they enjoyed every minute of the preparations and the camaraderie and collaborations of the competitions.

While they didn’t take home any trophies or medals this year — one team came 40th out of 100 in its competition and the other placed 70th out of 100 in its round — both Justice and Yang said the experience was well worth it.

“I really enjoyed the creative process of building our robot and the teamwork to develop and put it together,” Justice said.

“It’s fun to learn, but one big aspect of this was the competitive part, and I’m a very competitive person.”

In the VEX Robotics competition, students, in teams of three or four, compete against one another, but also form alliances that help earn key points as the tournament progresses.

Each year, the competition involves a different challenge or game, and this year, the robots were tasked with gathering up small balls and playing a form of basketball with each other.

“It was a trial and error process in building our robot for the competition, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Yang.

“It seems that nothing is ever complete and we were constantly fixing and tinkering with it, but I’m pleased with what we accomplished and I’m hoping we qualify to compete again next year.”

Robotics coach Nigel Mayes said some of the students from Shawnigan Lake School spent 10 to 12 hours a day in the robotics lab as the competition approached.

“The emphasis is on collaborating and working together to determine the strength and weaknesses of the robots and devise strategies to win the game,” he said.

“This is our third year in a row that we qualified to be contestants in the competition, and we’re going to work hard to ensure that we qualify again next year.”