Can the ingenuity of the Irish beat the best robots the world has to offer?
A team of secondary students from Cork are travelling to Louisville, Kentucky, this weekend to represent Ireland at the VEX Robotics World Championship.
The eight students from Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh in Cork built their own robot – dubbed G-RAF (short for Great Robot and Friends) – and raised €15,000 in sponsorship from local tech companies to cover the cost of their travel.
‘The value of the whole thing for us is how much we learned about the design process and teamwork, and how a small group of people can build something phenomenal’
– MATTHEW CRONIN
The team consists of Matthew Cronin, Harry Moran, Kevin O’Regan, Jamie O’Leary, Dan Murphy, Seán Cronin, Elvis Seporaitis and Aaron McGee.
Moran, who is a noted coder and famous for being one the youngest app creators to release a game on the App Store in 2012, explained that they made it to the finals after beating 24 other teams in the Irish tournaments without losing a single match.
The fighting Irish
Each year at VEX, the teams are challenged to build robots that are suited to compete in a new game that is devised every year.
This year, they will compete one-on-one to bring stars and cubes across a 12ft by 12ft arena.
“With the design we’ve built and our powerful arm, we aim to surpass the number of stars we can get into the other side’s part of the arena.”
The competition pits not only the students’ engineering and design expertise against one another, it also teaches them the fundamentals of entrepreneurship by encouraging them to do their own PR, use social media and raise finance on top of building the robots.
“There will be 563 teams taking part in the competition and it will be a process of elimination over the course of four days with over 94 robots in each of six divisions,” Cronin explained.
Moran said that the design process saw the team experiment with different materials and wheel types before settling on an aluminium frame and mecanum wheels. “The idea is to work our way through all the tournaments by relying on stamina and speed.”
Cronin added: “The value of the whole thing for us is how much we learned about the design process and teamwork, and how a small group of people can build something phenomenal.”
Moran concluded that while many of the teams compete for fun, the Irish team wants to make a statement.
“We are in it to win it.”