Team tops RoboCup challenge

Academics: Students construct robots, program them to perform.

Western Canadian winners: Matthew Carson

Western Canadian winners: Matthew Carson

Their team name is long and hard to spell, but you can just call them the robo-champs instead.

A group of three Grade 6 students with the unique team name pyromaniaardvarkz won first place in the dance category at the seventh annual Western Canada RoboCup Junior Games held Friday at Okanagan College’s Kelowna Campus.

Aiken Webster and Matthew Carson, both from Shuswap Middle School and Madison Smith from Len Wood Middle School, along with their coach Kim Webster, built and programmed two robots from scratch. As part of the competition, the students had to create a poster presentation of their robot design process, participate in interviews with the judges and in their grand finale, the students and the robots then perform a two-minute dance skit.

The pyromaniaardvarkz team chose a Star Wars theme for their presentation and wowed the judges with the synchronized robotics and sound and light elements.

While most of the teams are sponsored by individual schools, this team grew out of the Lego Mindstorms classes that Webster teaches at Salmon Arm’s Okanagan College campus.

“Last year, we went down to watch the RoboCup with the intention of putting in a team this year,” says Webster. “Once they saw it, these kids really got into the idea. I can’t tell you how many hours of hard work they put into this. It really showed.”

More than 200 students participated in the event.

Now Western Canadian champs in the under 13 category, the team has a chance to advance to the World level competition in the Netherlands in June.

“The next step is fundraising for that. We’d very much like to go; the kids are so committed and it would be great to see how their knowledge stacks up against teams from around the world,” says Kim.