Eight Cork City schoolboys fly out to Kentucky this weekend to pit their skills and technological know-how against students from China, Australia and the USA in the world finals of a prestigious robotics competition.
Over 560 teams are competing.
Not only did the students, part of an overall team of 12 young techies from Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh, excel in the Dell EMC VEX EDR National Finals in CIT, they also raised more than €13,000 to pay their way to the US.
The teens, all fourth-year and fifth-year students, swept the boards at the national final in January.
Their phenomenal achievement including securing the category of Tournament Champion, the Excellence award, Robot Skills and Partner of the Year — an award given to the best STEM ambassadors in the competition.
Winning four out of the six available awards at the Irish finals automatically qualified them to represent their country in the VEX Robotics World Championships in Kentucky this Easter.
The team’s win was the biggest awards’ haul ever in the European VEX robotics history.
“We’re flying out for a week, returning on April 23,” explained 17-year-old G-RAF team member Kevin O’Regan, who acts as head of finance, and PR and sponsorship.
Kevin explained the group will be competing against a staggering 565 teams from all over the world.
“The teams from around the world will have extremely high standards.
“They will all have upgraded their robots substantially in order to give themselves a good chance of competing at the world championships.
“We have spent months redesigning, rebuilding and re-programming our robot in preparation for the world event,” he said.
“We replaced all of the steel parts with aluminium to make it lighter and enable it to lift itself up,” Kevin said.
The team has also made a ‘claw’ to allow the robot to grasp objects.
The boys exceeded a fundraising target of €10,000, securing more than €13,000 to pay for travel, costs and accommodation, as well as for robot parts and team marketing materials for the event.
The team will be accompanied by the school’s fifth year head, Mary Walsh. The boys, whose team mascot is a giraffe, secured sponsorship from firms all over Ireland including some of Cork’s largest companies.
“It is thanks to this financial support that we were able to travel to the competition,” said Kevin.
He also paid tribute to his school and teachers for their support throughout the project.
The team’s sophisticated robot must participate in a competition in which it lifts three-dimensional stars and cubes and throws them over a fence before self-elevating on a pole in the corner of the arena.
“We have been working on this robot since September of 2016.
“It’s been a very demanding project, but we learned an awful lot from it.”
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