High schools shape future engineers

ROBOT: Participants getting ready to compete in the robot competition. Photo: Laura Sneath
ROBOT: Participants getting ready to compete in the robot competition. Photo: Laura Sneath

Robots took over Naracoorte High School on the weekend for the FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge Scrimage.

Training and recruiting mentor for the Student Robotics Club of South Australia Jeff Rabone told the Herald it's a great way for students to learn skills which they can develop into a career.

FIRST Tech Challenge is an American organisation which was started by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. Mr Rabone said when Mr Kamen was growing up, he didn't like how athletes were always getting awards at school assemblies, and the academics weren't - so he created a space where academics could shine.

"In SA, we've got 13 FTC teams. Three years ago, there were only two. In November, we hold a qualifier (and) we are hoping to hold it at the Adelaide Showgrounds this year," Mr Rabone said.

Students from Karoonda Area School, the RoboRoos from Adelaide, Murry Bridge High School, Mount Gambier High School, Tenison Woods College (Mt Gambier) and St Martins (Mt Gambier) gathered at Naracoorte for some friendly competition.

They day is set up with a match arena where four robots can compete at once, and they go head-to-head at building a block tower.

This is one of many tasks which are called 'launch games' - and each game has a challenge or obstacle which the robot operators must overcome. The robotics groups in regional SA have grown significantly over the past three years, and with access to more funding, Mr Rabone is hoping it will only continue to grow.

"To keep our South Australian region going, we really need to have about 15 teams. We've got 13 at the moment," he said.

"We're really dependent on some (teams) from interstate at the moment. Last year, we had one come to our inaugural competition from Western Australia."

Mr Rabone said he's trying to get the hobby recognised by regional politicians and the education department.

"In Queensland, they look at it very well and they're starting to consider it as a semester subject in Year 11. That would be really good if it comes here."