Fourteen of Launceston’s brightest young minds will spend the next few months painstakingly designing, programming and building robots to take part in competition held across the globe.
The two teams are taking part in challenges designed by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an international youth organisation which aims to inspire students in engineering and technology.
The Launceston-based teams call themselves Metal Minds Robotics, and was started by 18-year-old Harry Heathcote four years ago.
“I liked robotics and I wanted to get a bit more into it and dad came back to me with the FIRST Corp,” he said. “We had one matrix kit and we just decided to have a play, and in that same year we came fourth in the overall competition … it all started just from one idea and a joy which came from robotics.”
From a group of Harry’s friends, mentored by his engineer father Jon, the group has now grown with ten more students on the waiting list.
Mr Heathcote said each team will tackle a different set of criteria.
“FIRST Lego League is a group of 10 to 14-year-olds who program programmable lego bricks for competition, and the FIRST Tech Challenge is more of an industrial mechano metal robot programed with Android phones using Java,” he said.
The younger team’s challenge is called Animal Allies, and the students will have a series of challenges where they must transport and maneuver lego animals around a playing board, and cooperate with other teams.
The older team must build a robot which can throw small balls into goals and pick up an exercise ball which weighs a kilogram and is over 50 centimetres in diameter.
“If it can (pick up the exercise ball), it has the ability to throw it onto one of the centre goals in the challenge, that’s what we are going to aim for if we can because it gives us the most points but it’s quite a challenge,” Harry said. He said the competition develops a range of skills from writing, public speaking, programming, design, building, teamwork and general problem solving.
The junior team will face other Tasmanian competitors in Hobart in November, while the senior team will head to Sydney for the national championships in December. If they win, they will head to Texas for the global finals.