Six students now have their sights firmly set on the World Championships in the USA after their team won the Asia-PAC FIRST® Robotics Competition held in Sydney last weekend, 17 –19 March.
Year 9 and 10 students, Eloise Grant, Josie Symons, Wangshu Ma, Natasha and Michelle Fisher and Elle Haryanto were part of the winning group ‘Robocats’, sponsored by Swinburne University's Innovation Precinct, that beat 38 other robotic teams across Australia.
The all-girls team spent six weeks building a full-sized robot, with the help of three other Mentone Girls - Caylin Qiu (Yr 10), Maria Liousas and Natalie Cerovac (Yr 12) - that required them to collect energy balls and shoot them into a hopper; collect and insert gears onto a lever that could be pulled up; and raise itself off the ground.
Mentone Girls’ Grammar Head of Science, Helen Silvester, said it would be difficult to create a robot to do all three tasks in the six weeks’ building time, so the Robocats decided that they would focus solely on the transfer gears and elevation elements.
“Our strategy to focus our energy and time on building two elements of the robot proved to be the winning factor. When it came to the final round, the top team had first choice of all the other robotics teams to form an alliance, and they chose the Robocats! We graciously accepted, and formed an alliance of three teams, going into the Quarter Finals, Semi Finals, and then the Championship Finals,” said Mrs Silvester.
The Alliance group containing the Robocats won the Asia-PAC FIRST® Robotics Competition and qualified all three teams for the World Championships in Houston on 19 – 22 April.
“We are beyond ecstatic that six Mentone girls have pushed the boundaries in STEM and will now be competing on the global robotics stage in the U.S,” said Mrs Silvester.
“They will compete against 600 other teams, meet like-minded robotic enthusiasts, and then come back to Melbourne with ideas for marketing, branding, and how to streamline processes for improvement for the next competition season.
“Our school community is so incredibly proud of the girls for this amazing accomplishment, as well as their dedication to building the robot over the school holidays and weekends,” she said.
Year 9 student, Wangshu Ma, said being part of the Robocats was a life-changing experience and further increased her passion to pursue STEM in school and beyond.
“I’ve always loved science, engineering and maths, and always looking for new ways to further my knowledge. The best thing about the competition was being able to work with such amazing mentors and students. It’s so cool because everyone there is a nerd and you don’t have to hold back at all. There were also a lot of girls at the competition which was really inspiring to see.
“The most challenging thing was getting an idea off the ground. Our team would brainstorm ideas and come up with prototypes, but new problems would arise and we would have to find innovative ways to fix them. Sometimes we would have to abandon an idea all together and choose another one that is more suitable.
“I was so nervous before the final match, but when our alliance team won, I was so elated that I was close to tears! I had to keep reassuring myself that it wasn’t a dream and we actually did it. I couldn’t believe we had come so far and I was just so glad I was able to participate in such an inspiring event and meet such incredible people. I’m so proud of our team and will definitely be coming back next year,” says Wangshu.
Mentone Girls’ Grammar offers a comprehensive STEM curriculum from ELC to Year 12.