Thirty students from Journey, Dunsmuir and Spencer middle schools gathered on Friday at Sooke’s Journey Middle School to participate in the Gear Bots Jamboree.
The event involvedstudents building, coding and operating small robotic vehicles that scooted around a preset track while avoiding no-go zones and performing a variety of tasks.
“They use Lego Mindstorm robots that they build, accessorize and code to perform the tasks,” Glenn Bedard, Dunsmuir Middle School vice-principal, said.
“There’s a lot of engineering involved and the kids learn some of the basics of robotics while having a lot of fun.”
Bedard said most of the training allowed the young robotics engineers to successfully participate in the program is gleaned by participation in after school clubs.
“This isn’t really a part of any formal courses, but there’s a lot of interest in robotics and the program just keeps growing and growing,” he said.
Kelly Dvorak, one of the teachers shepherding the program at Journey Middle School, said that Friday’s event was an important prelude to larger competitions.
“This is to prepare for the Victoria final competition at Camosun College on March 6. The winners there will have a chance to go to Abbotsford for the B.C. finals,” Dvorak said.
It’s a prospect that has Journey student Matt Wrigley excited.
“I’ve been coding from scratch for a few years, and I thought that it would be really fun to apply that to these robots,” Wrigley said.
“It’s actually pretty easy to do, and it’s a lot of fun, especially when you’re competing against other teams.”
And though some may be disappointed that the robots are not the flamethrower and chainsaw equipped monsters that have been featured in televised robot battles, these small creations do have to be able to avoid obstacles, pick up items along the way and safely navigate themselves from one port to another.
“I build my own robots at home as a hobby and, yes, some of that chainsaw stuff happens there,” Dvorak admitted.
“But for these kids, this is a very good start to understanding the technology. Once you have the basics in place, anything is possible.”