Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Kids keep busy in robot lab

Competition opens up students to technical subjects.

With the touch of a button and a whirring sound, the robot was off.

Erupter the refuse collector prototype moved around the table completing challenges - knocking down a building, collecting debris, carrying it to a sorting machine, which jiggled it about, separating the larger pieces from the smaller ones.

Team Antimatter - Amy White, 13, her brother Harry White, 11, and Tim Harrington, 13 - looked happy.

A busy Easter weekend had seen them put the final touches to their Lego robot, made to take part in the First Lego League, which has more than 20,000 teams from 80 countries around the world taking part.

This year's theme is rubbish and recycling, with each team designing and building a robot to complete set missions.

ACG Strathallan pupil Tim said the team worked very hard.

"It was fun to build, we had lots of exciting times trying to get attachments to work, trying to figure out what was the best way to design it," he said.

His favourite aspect was programming and coding the robot.

"It's kind of easier than it looks, but you've still got to overcome challenges and sometimes it just does something really weird and you don't understand what's happening so you've got to look at the programming and you've got to understand it to know where the thing went wrong so you know how to fix it."

It's the third year Amy, who goes to St Mary's Ponsonby, has taken part.

"The hard, challenging things can be fun sometimes, because when you've worked weeks on it and you finally get it, it's really nice."

It had also assisted with her school work, she said, helping her gain higher marks in her projects.

She didn't have a problem with being among a small number of girls taking part.

"It's a good thing that girls can do the same - they can do engineering and do code and all this other stuff that boys can do."

The Kiwi First Robotics Charitable Trust organises the competition in New Zealand, and aims to encourage students into science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

"The programmes are aimed at getting students interested in science and technology in a fun and exciting way," trust founder and electronics engineer Jason Kyle said.

"I've seen many kids jumping for joy when some minor little thing happens out on the field - 'Wow, that worked, yay'."

Yesterday, aerospace giant Boeing donated US$50,000 ($73,000) to encourage more children to enter. The funding will mostly go towards travel grants for students from regional New Zealand to come to Auckland.

Enter the league
Entry to the First Lego League and the First Tech Challenge is still open. For more information, and to register your interest before April 30, visit:

- NZ Herald

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