We Robot

Local pair join  Trinity  team for a world FIRST test of talent

Two local teenagers were part of a nine-member team from Trinity College who travelled to America earlier in the year to compete in the much-acclaimed FIRST Tech World Championships.

Ben Axford, of Lewiston, and Jarrett Wilson, of Korunye, who are both 17 and studying Year 12 at Trinity College in Gawler, are part of the school’s robotics program. They helped construct a 22-kilogram, fully programmed and automated robot capable of lifting itself off the ground.

Known as the Trinity BaCoNeers, the trip follows success by the team late last year at the national FIRST Tech Challenge Competition in Sydney, where they won the Inspire Award for their robot, fondly nicknamed Mate-Trix.

Both boys had never travelled overseas before, and said it was the trip of their young lives.

Trinity College robotics teacher, Susan O’Malley, said the BaCoNeers competed against 128 other teams from around the world and loved being immersed into the world of engineering.

“The FIRST Tech Challenge Competition opened our eyes to the enormity of what students can achieve when they have skilled mentors, common purpose and a challenge,” Ms O’Malley said. 

“I think all the team members have grown from this experience.

“It’s wonderful to see that growth and confidence in themselves and what they can achieve.”

More than 40,000 people attended the championships, held in St Louis, and the Trinity BaCoNeers quickly stood out as a friendly, outgoing group who were eager to learn and share their experiences, she said.

Within the Trinity team, smaller teams were established to cover design, build, programing and marketing aspects of the robot, with Jarrett a member of the build team and Ben head of the management team.

Competing in a game context, each “game” pitted a team of two robots against another team of two robots, with each team trying to negotiate their way around a specified area, complete set tasks, such as picking up blocks, raising a flag and doing “chin-ups”, all within a two-and-a-half-minute time frame.

“It has been pretty challenging,” Jarrett said of the experience. Trying to work out how to make the robot do certain things was a challenge.

“You learn quite a bit, especially different ways of solving problems.”

The team received the Best Pit Design award at the championships, and while there was much engineering to be done, they also got to take in a few of the sights, visiting Disneyland, Hollywood and Legoland, and taking in a Cardinals baseball game.

“It’s definitely worth it,” Ben said. “I learnt a lot.”

Following the completion of their Year 12 studies at the end of the year, university beckons, with Jarrett hoping to study either mechtronic or sports engineering while Ben is looking to start study in the field of computer science.

Both boys received funding from the District Council of Mallala’s Community Partnerships Fund to help them attend the championships.

Trinity College is keen for other local schools to get involved in the FIRST Tech Challenge.

Anyone interested can email Susan O’Malley at omallesu@trinity.sa.edu.au.

Leave a Reply