Young robot builders are hoping to engineer themselves a trip to California by taking a top place in a national design competition.
The team from Bede Academy, in Blyth, secured a place at the VEX Robot final being held at the Big Bang Fair at the NEC in Birmingham today.
The boys, who are 12 to15, have used their experience of reaching the finals last year to develop a more complex robot, which has already won the Judges’ Award at a regional heat last month.
Team captain Alexander Forsythe, 14, said: “Last year was the first time we’d entered the competition so we were still learning and our robot was very basic. This time we know how the competition operates, the standard of entry we can expect from the other competitors and we’ve also learned a lot more at school in the last year, such as developing our skills in mechanics, gear ratios, levers and programming. Everything we’ve learned we’ve been able to apply and improve our robot.”
Chief engineer Thomas Henderson, 13, explained how much time the boys have put in. He said: “Since September, we’ve come to the engineering department every lunchtime to work on the robot and we stay every night after school until at least 5.30pm.”
With the support of sponsors BEL Valves, in Newcastle, and Opsol, of Cramlington, the boys believe the extra work will lead to a winning entry. Alexander added: “Since the regionals we’ve made the robot much better. It’s lighter and we’ve moved the motors to the back. It’s more efficient and uses up less battery power.”
Engineering teacher Cosmo O’Reilly said the team had worked largely on their own until the competition drew nearer. He said: “They’ve been very independent and taken on a lot of the responsibility themselves.
“They’ve also done a lot of research into winning designs and used that knowledge to modify their own version.”
Both BEL Valves and Opsol support Bede Academy, which has an engineering specialism, by offering work experience places to students. Opsol has just recruited a current Year 11 student as an apprentice.