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Robotics Challenge

Lytchett Minster School was proudly represented at this year’s Robotics Challenge run by Tomorrow’s Engineers and, with some excellent team work, managed to bring home some silverware to adorn the school’s trophy cabinet.

Rees Jones (Year 7), Alfie Rawlings (Year 8) and Luke Nicolas (Year 8) comprised the team that have been spending time perfecting Lego robots to compete in the various challenges. This was the chance to showcase their hard work and see how they compared to the other schools in the regional competition, held at Richard Taunton College, Southampton.

The challenge was split into several areas. The first was the speed challenge: simply put, get your Lego robot from one side of the track to the other in the quickest time possible. With clever use of gearing and an optimised lightweight design, Lytchett Minster School came third. You can see the speed robot in the line up on the left, the button on the front allowing for easy braking at the end of the track – a feature omitted when the teacher was sat at the end of the track filming an oncoming robot whilst being assured it would stop!

Next up was the challenge mat – a series of tasks that the robot had to complete without human interaction. This didn’t go as well, but plenty was learned and there was another shot at this in the afternoon. More on that later!

The three students were put in front of the judges to explain their design choices; they were very eloquent as they discussed their well-reasoned design and improvements that they made over the weeks to optimise the different robots for different tasks, answering the questions well and showing a very mature approach to the challenge. This gave them the second best score for the section.

There was a team challenge: a task which wasn’t revealed until the team had their 5 minutes to tackle it. Aimed at testing teamwork, problem-solving and engineering skills, the challenge turned out to be getting two Lego characters and a marble down a slope safely, which seems easy until you realise just how close to the edge of the table the bottom of the slope is. After some iterative beta testing, and a couple of tries where the Lego people were flung into the oblivion off the table, the team came up with a solid design that they tweaked to perfection. Out of the 9 teams, the students from Lytchett Minster School excelled at this challenge and came first.

After a break for lunch, tinkering, trials and tests, we once again faced the challenge mat. This time the team was prepared, everyone knew their roles and everything was in place. The robot started, did a little dance (because why not), navigated the mat collecting the engines, opened a security gate, retrieved a plane, closed the security gate, put the repaired plane in the transport bay, and started to climb the ramp. The ramp had five difficulty levels and the team obviously went straight for the most difficult one (no-one else appeared to try that level) and got to the top with a slide down to finish. This time they had learned from their experiences and put together an excellent run gaining praise from the judge.

The final task was a presentation about humanitarian aid. They had researched the use of drones in search and rescue, even interviewing RNLI crew members to find out the latest in the area.

After the scores were totalled, Lytchett had managed to pip most of the field and landed second place and a place in the finals at the Big Bang Fair at the NEC, Birmingham.

Well done to the team and their excellent effort! The trophies are on display in the display cabinet in reception. If any student is interested in getting involved in Lego robots they should please speak to or email Mr Reghif.

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