Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Students ready for battle of the bots

From left: Niamh Conlon, Feilding High; Conor Thomas, Lynfield College, Logan Davy, Otumoetai College; and Jess Chase Long Bay College prepare for the robotics competition. Photo / Dean Purcell
From left: Niamh Conlon, Feilding High; Conor Thomas, Lynfield College, Logan Davy, Otumoetai College; and Jess Chase Long Bay College prepare for the robotics competition. Photo / Dean Purcell

It's not a battle to the death - but the robots in this weekend's national schools championships are still impressive machines.

More than 80 schools and 1,000 students are involved in the Kiwibots national competition held this weekend at the Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau.

The competition requires teams to build robots using a Vex robotics kit and then compete against other teams to score points in tasks.

Kiwibots national manager Chris Hamling said the format is less violent than the popular television show Robot Wars, where two machines fight until one is no longer operational.

"We believe robots are nice for humans and useful for humans, so we don't get them to destroy each other. It's a game of skill and mechanical dexterity."

Matches are played between red and blue robot alliances, which compete for two minutes on a field four metres by four metres. Obstacles and objects including a beachball need to be negotiated and manipulated for points.

While schools compete, they also need to work together at times. The tournament champions will go to the World Championships in Anaheim, Los Angeles this April.

There will be a bit of pressure - New Zealand has entered for the past five years and won each time.

University students mentor some teams, with Kiwibot sponsor Fisher & Paykel Healthcare guaranteeing those who do, a job interview.

Mr Hamling said the reason for that was obvious to anyone who saw the machines in action.

"You have kids that are designing pneumatic mechanisms to fire these beachballs ... from one side of the field to the other.

"There are all the various design elements, physics comes into it, and battery management is another ... there is software programming involved."


Down to the wire

What - A school robotics competition which sees students build machines and then challenge others in tasks of skill.

Where - Today and tomorrow at the Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau.

The prize - Representing New Zealand against more than 25 other countries at the World Championships in Anaheim, Los Angeles this April.

- NZ Herald

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