Robotics Explorers Find Life, Not Unlike Our Own - Glasshouse Christian College

Robotics Explorers Find Life, Not Unlike Our Own

  • November 18, 2014

On Sunday Nov 16, an intrepid band of robotics engineers and programmers from the senior school ventured out in their first foray into the ‘alternative universe’ of the First Lego League world Challenge. Just like the first explorers who feared falling from the edge of the earth or dealing with strange and fearsome creatures, the GCCC teams faced great trepidation about the potential humiliation and embarrassment that might occur when experiencing first contact with other beings from this parallel universe. What they found was that they are out there and they are a lot like us!

The two teams, one from the Middle School (the Middies) and the Senior School (The 10ers), were represented on the day by a smaller group who were able and in condition to face the fierce battle against record heat extremes and probably record nerves, including Tyler Rees and Cody Jones from Year 7, and Cynan Lindsay, Jake Maloney and Jordan Wright from Year 10. The Glasshouse team converged at Grace Lutheran College and, after a short prayer for strength delivered by the convenors, moved to their practice rooms and prepared for battle in the World Class Challenge, a truly international event.

In the previous weeks, each team had spent countless lunchtimes and remained after school for hours in a valiant attempt to master the intricacies and complexities of the Lego NXT robotic modules and accessories, struggling to design and program the units to complete a range of missions linked to the theme of education in a changing technological world. Robots had to lift, shift, move and remove a range of objects, navigate obstacles and return safely to base. Despite countless attempts, the robots proved to have a mind of their own and both teams faced the daunting possibility of digital disaster on the robotic mission field.

As the hour of battle approached, students began to notice that nearby practicing teams were all struggling with the same variations and contradictions of life that emerge when theory is put into practice. Robots running awry, tangling amid nearby obstacles, running out of battery life, failing to light up due to bad connections, steering left not right or swinging arms up not down, chaos reigned supreme. Whilst we had been reminded that ‘Comparison is the death of Joy’, according to Mark Twain, it was comforting to know that these assumedly ‘superior beings’ were also mortal.

The ensuing forays onto the competition table demonstrated that, more important than robotic success was the ability to stand in the face of adversity, accept and learn from failures and to turn and try again. Our bold veterans, having returned battle scarred but stronger in heart, now have the opportunity to begin preparing for a renewed robotic campaign in the year to come, this time with a sense of grim confidence in their ability to face the challenge and to fight on.

In the final analysis, while our late entry and hasty rush to prepare for competition did not crown us with the winner’s wreath, we could say ‘Vene, vidi, vici!’ (We came, we saw and we conquered), although perhaps not against our robotic opponents , but over the fears and desperate desires to run and hide.
Mr Brown would like to congratulate the organisers, particularly Peter Kellet from Grace Rothwell for an excellent and well structured event, the numerous encouraging and inspiring volunteers who gave up their day to wander the hot school grounds steering lost explorers, the parents who came along to support the teams (Brett Lindsay and Roz Jones) and those who could not make it on the day, including James Proud, Reagen Lister, Hayden McKinnie and Lachlan Rosenberg for their contributions to robot design and programming. Thanks also to the teachers who allowed access to rooms and students time for training. We will meet again on that distant shore, if not before!

Jon Brown
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