Youngsters off to compete at Robofest International

Belinda Bantham -- Thu, 04/06/2017 - 10:16

Youngsters off to compete at Robofest International

If the excitement of the recent rendition of the Robofest SA 2017 was anything to go by, then the stage is set for a stellar international championship in June.

The North-West University’s (NWU’s) campus in Vanderbijlpark hosted the national Robofest competition in March of this year in collaboration with Trophy Robotics. As the event served as a qualifier for the international competition (to take place in Florida, USA from 1-3 June 2017), the standard of the competition was very high and participants had to dig deep to impress the judges with their technical know-how, presentation skills and innovative problem solving. During the course of the competition learners had to design, construct and program their own robots – be it as individual participants or as a team.

More than 50 learners from schools across central South Africa took part in the Robofest SA competition and the championship catered for three age groupings, namely: Grade 4 – 8, Grade 9 – 12 and, the advanced VCC division (Vision Centric Challenge) for high school learners and university students.

Preparing to take on the world’s best

During the prize giving session of Robofest SA the South African representative of Robofest, Pieter Pretorius, announced that the winners of the different categories will see themselves representing their country in June during the international championship. In another exciting development the international organising body also extended two invitations to South Africa to take part in the so-called World Championship for BottleSumo. This invitation is extended to middle and high school learners.

This will be the first time that a South African team will take part in this specific robotic category. In preparation for this, Pretorius hosted two intensive workshops – on 18 and 25 March, during which he not only taught learners the necessary skills for this category, but also select the two teams that will represent South Africa. For the duration of the workshops the campus provided the participants with tablets to assist them in their preparation.

The following learners will represent South Africa on the international stage:

  • Marco Schnaar-Campbell from St Benedicts College (Senior Exhibition Category)
  • Caitlin Cockcroft from Cornwall Hill College (Senior Gameplay Category)
  • Joshua Botha and Jurgen Hanekom, both home schooled (Junior Gameplay Category)
  • Luke Andrews from Cornwall Hill College (Junior Gameplay Category)
  • Izabelle Bothma from Laerskool Kollegepark (Junior Exhibition Category)

The main aim of an initiative such as Robofest is to encourage learners to embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM as it is more commonly referred to, and according to Ms Malie Zeeman – lecturer within the School of Information Technology and a member of the NWU Robofest SA coordinating body,  Robofest SA provides an ideal platform from where the principles of physical science, computer programming skills, technology, applied mathematics and communication technologies can be taught.

The Robofest concept has taken the world by storm since its inception in 2000 and over 16 000 learners have competed in Robofest over the past 15 years – including teams from 13 US States, England, Canada, China, France India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa.

* This year marks the third time that the NWU hosted this prestigious event.

Earlier this year the NWU Vaal hosted Robofest SA in Vanderbijlpark.