Otumoetai College’s robotic team has beaten hundreds of teams from around the world to claim the third equal spot at the VEX Robotics World Championships in Los Angeles.
The three-member teams design, program and build custom-made robots that they compete against another team on a field, where they have to pick up and move cylinders and balls into various goals to score points – in a challenge combining design and engineering skill with on-field tactics.
Otumoetai College’s robot team VeX-Men (from left) Lucas de Rijk, Shane de Rijk and Seumas Beedie finished 3rd equal of 400 teams at the VEX Robotics World Championships in Los Angeles. Photo: Supplied.
Year 12 team member Lucas de Rijk says they achieved the goal of making one of the four divisional finals, which they won, but are determined to do even better next year and have already begun work on next year’s competition robot.
“We are already thinking about our design,” say Lucas, 16, who worked with brother Shane, 18, and Year 12 team-mate Seumas Beedie, 16, on the robot in their team VeX-Men.
College electronics teacher and team mentor Deon Wessells said the boys had done “extremely well” to be third equal out of 400 secondary teams – and aside from some bad luck could have done better.
“The team has always had the worst luck on the planet – being teamed up with the worst mates (teams are paired up in alliances).”
It was the team’s first time competing at the world championships – and the first time a New Zealand team won its divisional final on debut.
New Zealand team’s dominated the event – with six of the 400 teams from here, winning three of the top four placings including Onehunga High School, which was overall world champions. It was the fourth year a New Zealand team had won.
Deon says the team did really well in a “high pressure” division final against New Zealand Champions, Lynfield College and the World Champion team from Massachusetts in 2009 and 2011, but motor problems in the final round knocked them out of contention.
“Even if these boys didn’t win they’ve won so much already just from the process. I tell you any company would pay a fortune for programmers, designers and builders to work together as well as these boys do and they do it entirely on their own time – at lunch times and afterschool.”
Team manager Toni de Rijk thanked Page Macrae Engineering as key sponsor, along with Bay Engineers Supplies, Priority One, Westpac, Computastyle Signs and the Water Safety Foundation for support to help cover the cost of parts and attending the competition.
Despite graduating from Otumoetai College last year Shane de Rijk was able to compete in the school team because the competition is based on the US academic year to July, on which basis Shane would still be at school. He is now studying mechatronics in a Massey University electrical engineering degree.