Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Students' robot to take on the world

(From left) Otumoetai College students John Austin, Daniel Lee, Finn Schullenbach, Ethan Hanlon, Cory Dyer, and Braedyn Denney (not pictured) won the VEX Robotics National Championship title last weekend. Photo / George Novak
(From left) Otumoetai College students John Austin, Daniel Lee, Finn Schullenbach, Ethan Hanlon, Cory Dyer, and Braedyn Denney (not pictured) won the VEX Robotics National Championship title last weekend. Photo / George Novak

Four Otumoetai College students and their robotic creation will be heading to the United States in April hoping to become world champions.

Ethan Hanlon, Cory Dyer, Finn Schullenbach, John Austin, Daniel Lee, and Braedyn Denney, won the VEX Robotics National Championship title last weekend, beating out 70 teams from across the country during the two days of competition.

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Four members of the winning team - Ethan and Cory, both aged 15, John, 14, and 16-year-old Finn - and two adults are now off to the 2016 VEX World Championships being held in Louisville, Kentucky from April 20 to 23.

The event features 500 international teams who competed in similar VEX Robotics tournaments from June 2015 to March this year.

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Calling themselves Team 2941, the Otumoetai students won the national title with their robot which harvests a sponge ball (about the size of a coconut), which is then taken up along a conveyer belt and catapulted into a net hoop - similar to a basketball game.

For their efforts the team collectively came away with three trophies and $5000.

Daniel, Finn and Braedyn won the Tournament Champion trophy, Daniel, Ethan and Braedyn won the division championship trophy, and John received the division finalist trophy.

Due to commitments Daniel and Braedyn are not going to the VEX World Championships.

While most other teenagers hit the beaches over the summer, Team 2941 spent almost every waking hour since January building their winning creation.

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Cory said: "I'm more scared than excited about going to the VEX Worlds as we now have 30days to come up with another robot which is even better with more firing capabilities."

They were looking at creating a robot with a double cannon mechanism, he said.

Ethan said they also had about 30-40 days to raise $30,000 and were desperately looking for sponsorship - the college had donated $5000.

When asked how they rated their chances, Cory said the competition would be fierce.

"New Zealand teams have done well in the past, but the Canadian teams are always pretty vicious," he said.

VEX Robotics offers students a platform of learning that provides rich career opportunities, spanning science technology, engineering and mathematics.

Cory said many of the past winning teams had been offered university scholarships.

"Going to the VEX Worlds opens doors," he said.

Otumoetai College's electronics and robotics teacher Deon Wessels said he was extremely proud of his young charges who beat out some Year 13 teams to take out the title.

Mr Wessels said the design concept and building the robot were entirely the students own efforts, and Team 2941 richly deserved the win.

2016 VEX Worlds Robotics Championships:

* What: Gathering of top robotic teams from around the world who compete with and against the best of the best. Teams play the game "VEX Skyrise" which is played in a square field where two robotic alliances, comprising two robots each, play against each other.

* Where: Louisville, Kentucky

* When: April 20-23

* Who: 500 international teams

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