Queenstown high school students to represent NZ at robotics world ‘Olympics’

A bunch of talented Queenstown high school students have been selected to represent New Zealand at the “Olympics” of robotics.

Wakatipu High School students Tannin Heeley, 14, Monique Rider, 13, Pearce Summerfield, 14, Josh Nyberg, 14 and Minnie Tam, 14, will compete in the FIRST Global Challenge in Dubai, in October.

Rider said the team, known as the Queenstown Robostormers, combined technical, engineering, software programming and electronics skills to achieve their robotic goals but the competition required wider skills.

They would also be judged on the “discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun” they displayed.

They believe a haka and poi performance they gave in a recent Sydney competition helped secure them the invitation.

“We showed really good team work and enthusiasm and generally helping others a lot so we were taken notice of when they were trying to find someone for Dubai,” Rider said.

“It’s not so much about robotic ability. It’s about working it out, helping other people and generally having a good time. We want to win and we want to help others along the way.”

The team started working together under Kit McGrath teacher Martin Wightman in 2017 and faced its first big challenge competing in a national competition only four days after the 45-year-old died of a heart attack.

Despite it being a difficult time for the team they claimed second place.

Team manager Paula Hugens​ took over as coach and kept growing the team and finding different competitions to enter.

After claiming an overall second place in December in the national FIRST LEGO League in Auckland they competed in Sydney at the Asia Pacific Championships and were invited to represent New Zealand at the Dubai event.

They have since received a box containing the equipment they are to use to create a robot that will be used to clear pollutants from an artificial ocean.

They will compete to remove the highest number of polluting objects against teams from all over the world.

Already they are getting to know many of their competitors online, including teams from Serbia, Kenya and Gabon.

“We have a lot of fun hanging out with like-minded people,” Rider said.

Part of the fun was playing with “awesome technology” and making something happen with computers.

Asked if she expected the Dubai trip would be an amazing experience, she replied “It already is”.

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