The Comox Valley School District will host the annual Vancouver Island VEX Robotics Tournament again this year.
Thirty-two teams of students, mostly from Grade 8 to 12, will come to the Valley to compete this Saturday at Lake Trail Middle School from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The community is encouraged to watch the tournament, according to Comox Valley School District career programs co-ordinator Randy Grey, who adds the challenges are exciting to watch and are new each year.
“This year it’s called Sack Attack,” says Grey. “They have to be able to pick up bean bags and launch them really quickly.
“It’s quite a good one to watch.”
Teams form alliances in VEX tournaments, and each alliance receives the same parts to build their robots with so Grey says the competition is really about who can work together to come up with the best design.
G.P. Vanier Secondary School will have four teams attend, while Highland will have two, Mark R. Isfeld will have two, Navigate Powered by NIDES (North Island Distance Education School) will have two and Lake Trail will have one.
Many of the Comox Valley teams went to Vancouver for a season opener tournament earlier in the school year, and the two Isfeld teams made it to the semi-finals, and the Highland and Vanier teams played in an alliance and won the consolation final.
Grey notes the number of teams in the Comox Valley is high compared to the number of secondary schools; he points out Surrey has about 28 high schools but only about four teams total.
Teams will also come from Campbell River, Nanaimo, Mill Bay and the Lower Mainland to compete in the Comox Valley.
Grey says the collaboration with other teams makes the competition similar to real work environments.
“What really becomes evident at these competitions is the collaboration between students that they’re in a competition, they collaborate to make a robot and then they have to implement it and that’s just like out in industry,” says Grey. “That’s the whole philosophy behind robotics is that they’re given a challenge, they have to solve the challenge and then they go and compete and the winner takes all, and that’s just like in industry so it’s really cool.”
Three of the teams from this tournament will qualify to go to the world championships in California later this year.
“So it’s a big tournament,” he adds. “There’s only three qualifying tournaments in BC — this is one of them.”
Grey is looking for community volunteers for the event at Lake Trail. Duties vary and he urges anyone interested to contact him at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Grey notes Lego Robotics — which is designed to excite younger students (mainly Grade 5) about robotics early on in their education — has been slowly growing in the district thanks to Navigate teacher Stew Savard, who “has been instrumental in bringing Lego robotics to every elementary school in the Comox Valley,” according to Grey.