By Phil Joubert
One of the most exciting changes to happen at Redhill in both the Prep and High Schools in 2016 has been the introduction of Lego Robotics.
While most people think of Robots as something from science fiction, and Lego as a memory from childhood, Lego Robotics has made its mark on Redhill’s STEM program. In March 2016, the PTA of Redhill School invested in 12 sets of LEGO Mindstorm Robotics kits that were immediately put to use. Under the watchful eye of Mr Sean Hampton-Cole and Philip Joubert in the Future Focus Centre, over 65 excited Redhillians tried their hand at being young inventors, engineers, tinkerers, and coders with many choosing to take part in the World Robotics Olympiad.
12 teams were entered into the World Robotics Olympiad, an international competition in which 55 countries compete to solve a theme-based challenge by using robotics. This is the most by one school in the South African competition’s history.
This year’s challenge “Rap the Scrap” was based on waste recycling and robots were placed on mats that emulated waste recycling dumps. The robots were built and programmed entirely by the students, and they had to use the board, as well as some sophisticated coding to find the waste and sort it based on colour and size, with points being awarded for accuracy and speed.
12 Redhill teams entered the 2016 Regional competition competition at the Tshwane University of Technology and to our absolute amazement and pride, 4 teams scored sufficient points to qualify for the National round of the WRO at the end of October 2016.
Our intrepid “Redhill Robotics Geeks” arrived at TUT filled with excitement on the morning of the 29th of October for the National round of the competition. As the day moved on, the competition became tense as changing conditions proved tough for some of the other teams. At the end of the day, two teams from Redhill proved themselves to be worthy and both ranked 2nd in South Africa in their respective age categories against over 200 other teams from around South Africa. (Our senior team had to wait for four judges measuring the final position of their robot, and unfortunately missed first place by exactly 1 millimeter!) Happily, both teams qualified to represent South Africa at the International round of the World Robotics Olympiad.
This is the first time in the history of WRO that two teams from the same centre have represented South Africa – and in its first year of operation!
Redhillians Suneet Mahavadi, Shivun Chinniah, Keziah Till and Tania Bantam are currently frantically preparing for the International World Robotics Olympiad at the time of this and their two equally frantic coaches will accompany them on their journey there.
Robotics has achieved so much in its first year of existence but we strongly believe that the program must be extended throughout the school to children as young as 6, as a vehicle for adopting 21st Century skills such as critical thinking, strategic and logical problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and, of course, coding, the language of the future.
Robotics is no longer seen as the reserve of a quiet few that are “into it”, but is now a way for young problem solvers of all ages, backgrounds and genders to get involved in a rapidly expanding field. Robotics and automation is changing the world of work in ways never before imagined and the skills learnt in the Future Focus Centre may well change the career paths of young Redhillians.
And who knows, perhaps a few of them will even change the world for the better!