Teamwork important while building robots

MARK R. ISFELD Grade 11 students Evie Kenny, from left, Nicolas Parlee, Adrian Humphry and Damian Parlee will use these robots to compete Saturday in the Vancouver Island VEX Robotics Tournament at Highland Secondary School.  - Renee Andor
MARK R. ISFELD Grade 11 students Evie Kenny, from left, Nicolas Parlee, Adrian Humphry and Damian Parlee will use these robots to compete Saturday in the Vancouver Island VEX Robotics Tournament at Highland Secondary School.
— image credit: Renee Andor

Comox Valley students will test the might of their robotic creations Saturday at the Vancouver Island VEX Robotics Tournament.

Held for the first time ever at Highland Secondary School, the tournament will run from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the playoff portion happening from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.

Thirty-two teams have registered from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, according to Comox Valley School District career programs co-ordinator Randy Grey. Comox Valley representation will include two teams from Highland, three teams from Isfeld and four teams from Navigate powered by NIDES (North Island Distance Education School).

Two of Isfeld's teams attended the VEX Robotics World Championship last year and will compete this Saturday. Grade 11 student Damian Parlee was on one of those teams.

"We ranked higher than any team from B.C., (at last year's world competition), which was pretty exciting," says Parlee, who is confident Isfeld's robots will make it to the world championship again this year.

Robots for VEX tournaments are made using bought components which the students then put together to create a robot designed to complete a specified task. Robots this year will need to pick up small balls (buckyballs) and larger balls (similar size as beach balls).

Parlee's classmate Adrian Humphry adds students go through many designs before they finish their final robot; he put about 50 hours into his team's robot this year and Parlee put in 80 to 100 hours.

Teamwork is important while building the robots, but it's also an important aspect of the tournament, as teams must form alliances and work together to do well.

"Who you choose is who will complement your robot well," says Humphry. "So, maybe (your) robot is really good at picking up the big balls and then you go with one that's really good at picking up the little balls and you work together."

Grey looks forward to seeing the four teams from Navigate compete, and he points out the school first entered a VEX robotics tournament just last year.

"They have come so far in their robot designs," Grey says. "Those kids are part of our school district but they come from all over out there, so they come and meet a couple of nights a week and work on their robot together or communicate back and forth via the Internet.

"So, that's quite different than our standard model where students are in high school all day long, and they see each other there and they work in their local shop, or something like that."

The event will feature a Lego robotics demonstration for the younger kids, which Grey says is the beginning of a progression in robotics skills students can gain throughout elementary and secondary school.

"In elementary school, the kids have some Lego robotics and they get excited," explains Grey. "When they head into secondary school they continue with their robots, either Lego or transition into VEX robotics.

"And then when they hit the senior level, Grade 11 and 12, then they have Skills Canada robotics where it's design and build from scratch."

This tournament is a qualifying round for the provincial tournament held in February. Teams that do well at the provincial tournament could qualify for the VEX Robotics World Championship held in April in California.

If Comox Valley students qualify for the world championship, they will need to fundraise to pay for the trip. Isfeld's teams thank the public for its help with fundraising last year. For more information, contact Randy Grey at 250-897-5632.


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