Anna and Coral crowned robot master champions

TWO Ripon Grammar School students have emerged as north of England robot masters in a major tournament.

Anna Bradley and Coral Watt were among the talented students who gathered at the impressive Diamond building in the University of Sheffield’s computer science department for the prestigious final of the Science and Technology Challenge.

The Year 9 students, who had already beaten off stiff competition from 20 other teams to triumph in their regional heat in York, were tasked with building and programming a mobile Lego Mindstorm robot.

Anna, 13, from Ripon, who didn't know anything about the programming software before she started, said: "It was a great challenge and winning was such a big achievement, I was ecstatic. It showed me that you should never give up, because with perseverance you will succeed."

Paired with two students from Sirius West Academy in Hull in the Yorkshire team, they were up against five other teams in the North and North-East final.

Following an inspirational talk by cognitive robotics expert Prof Tony Prescott, the students programmed their robots using Java software, enabling it to follow a dotted line and negotiate its way through a maze, using infrared and light sensors to avoid a series of obstacles.

They also had to give a presentation on the future of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Judged on their robot’s performance, the elegance of their programming, how well they worked together and their group presentation, the Yorkshire team was awarded first prize by Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire Andrew Coombe. Lincolnshire and Teesside came in second and third place.

Anna explained how she was gripped by robotics from the first round of the competition: "It fascinated me how you could give simple instructions to a piece of software, which then got transferred to the robot and translated into actions."

She also learnt about the importance of teamwork: "Without Coral and the other two, Jake and Amelia, I wouldn't have known what to do. We all worked well together."

RGS science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) co-ordinator Claire Gallagher said she was extremely proud of Anna's and Coral's achievement: "They have shown great initiative, teamwork and problem-solving skills and have developed their STEM skills in areas such as coding, programming, designing, researching and communication, which will be invaluable if they choose to pursue a career in engineering." 

*Science and Technology Challenge Days, run by MCS Projects and aimed at encouraging students to consider studying STEM subjects STEM- based careers, are held at universities throughout the UK.