Robot wars, boy: Cork students vie for championship

21 Jan 2014

In a battle of machine versus machine, 14 Cork secondary school teams will be competing this Friday for a place in next April’s robot world championship in California.

Fourteen teams have been selected from the 10 schools to develop, build and fight with their robots in the EMC VEX Robotics championship at the Nexus Centre on the Cork Institute of Technology campus in an initiative which hopes to boost interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

In its second year, the teams have been building their weapons of remote-controlled destruction using VEX robotic parts, similar in design to a Meccano toy set but with more electricity and destructive power.

This year’s teams include: Davis College, Mallow; North Monastery, North Cork; McEgan College, Macroom; Deerpark CBS, Cork City; Bishopstown Community School, Bishopstown; St Colman’s Community College, Midleton; Colaiste Pobail Naomh Mhuire, Buttevant; Ballincollig Community School, Ballincollig; Colaiste Choilm, Ballincollig; Nagle Community College, Mahon, and a Coder Dojo CIT team from Bishopstown.

As the name suggests, the competition is put together with the help of American multi-national data storage company EMC, which employs 3,000 people in Ireland.

Important for scientific future

Teams will compete for multiple prizes but the top prize, the Excellence Award, is awarded to the team that not only builds a quality robot but excels in many areas of the programme, with the winning team securing a place in the global tournament in California.

“It is vital that young people equip themselves with the tools to function in an increasingly digital economy,” said Martin O’Flaherty, programme manager at EMC and Vex Robotics leader. “Science and technology skills have never been more important and EMC, as one of Ireland’s largest employers in the technology sector, wanted to partner with schools to develop students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and maths.”

In last year’s competition, Davis College, Mallow, represented Ireland and hopes to make it two years in a row this Friday.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic