Robotic champs score hat-trick

National champions from Hillcrest Christian College celebrate their win, from left, Bradley Johnson, Zac Peacock, Tom Austin, Connah Trotman, Elliot Lam, and Ross Shilliday. Picture: CONTRIBUTED.

By Brendan Rees

Students at Hillcrest Christian College in Clyde North know more than a just a thing or two when it comes to the nuts and bolts of building robots.
Having spent up to 25 hours a week of designing and building robots, Hillcrest’s team of four boys are off to America this year after taking out the VEX Robotics Australia National Championship on Saturday 9 December at Dandenong High School.
The boys won the ‘Excellence Award’ and will now take on the world stage for the third consecutive year at the VEX Robotics World Championship at Kentucky, USA in April.
Head of science and VEX mentor at Hillcrest Christian College, Simon Taylor, said he was proud of his students who achieved an amazing feat through their hard work and determination.
“They felt that they had invested many hours into developing their robot and that winning was an acknowledgement of this hard work.”
In the competition, called the ‘In the Zone,’ each robot had to navigate through an area filled with cones on a 12 foot by 12 foot field, Mr Taylor explained.
“There are yellow cones set up on the field that the robots have to pick up and stack onto goals.”
“One set of goals are higher and stationary and other set can be moved. Moving the goals into zones on the field which is into one corner, scores extra points.”
The Hillcrest boys’ winning team, named 7479A was made up of students Tom Austin, Connah Trotman, Zac Peacock and Elliot Lam.
They also won the tournament challenge and Robot Skills Challenge – making them the envious all round winners at the championship.
Mr Taylor said a second team from the college, named 7479B consisting of Bradley Johnson, Ross Shilliday, Tristan Cross, Kaiden Westendorp also competed in the national semi-finals.
“Students spent their lunch breaks, recesses each day during the school year (building robots). They also had two after school build sessions for an hour and a half per week and a Wednesday afternoon during their private study,” he said.
“Leading up to competition they spent much of their spare periods and weekends building.”
He said the students’ expertise from competing in the last two world championships had helped developed the school’s STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
“I am very proud of both teams. They have shown such dedication and determination.”
“It is such a great learning experience for the students.”

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