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How robots are helping at an NT high school

Three minutes
Teach For Australia Friday, September 23rd, 2016

In early September, the Australian Robocup Junior competition was held for the first time in the Northern Territory.

As a science teacher at Katherine High School, Teach For Australia Associate Zaiga Thomann (Cohort 2016) was eager to get her students involved.

Robotics was introduced as a new subject at Katherine High School this year, and Zaiga said she was lucky enough to be put in charge of the course.

After attending a seminar about how to incorporate Lego EV3 robotics into her classroom, the organisers of the Australian Robocup Junior competition encouraged Zaiga and the other teachers who were attending to enter their students into the upcoming competition in Darwin.

The Robocup, which was open to NT high school students, involved programming robots to compete in three competitions — Dance, Rescue and Soccer.

In the two weeks leading up to the competition, Zaiga helped her students to program their dance routines and complete ‘mini challenges’ to prepare for the rescue competition.

“This involved a lot of trial and error to make the timing work and to make sure their robot stayed in the allowed space,” said Zaiga.

On the day of the competition, Zaiga and her robotics students drove from Katherine to Darwin to compete. The competition was held on the outdoor basketball courts at Charles Darwin University.


An example of the kind of robots used

Some students presented their dance routines to the audience and judges, while others who were involved in the rescue challenge completed a workshop on how to make their robots follow a line and rescue a box from a chemical spill.

“[The experience] helped me understand how robots work and how they think,” said Hayden, one of the students.

Though the Katherine High School teams didn’t place, Zaiga said that the students had a great day participating in the competition and watching the routines that other schools had come up with.

One of Zaiga’s students, Chadd, said the competition was very exciting.

“It was a good experience to make friends with other schools and socialise.”

Most of the students from Katherine had never done robotics before. Zaiga is hopeful that their experience participating in the Robocup will have opened their eyes as to what is possible and give them lots of ideas for next year.

Following the students’ participation in the Robocup Junior competition in Darwin, interest in robotics at Katherine High School is gradually building.

“Not all students knew it existed as a course but slowly, as students hear about it, I’m getting questions about the course and whether it is offered for their grade,” said Zaiga.

There is strong interest for the Robocup to become an established activity in the Northern Territory, as it was an excellent way for students to learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in a fun and interactive way.

“We received some great feedback from the judges about what our students had achieved in such a short time frame,” said Zaiga.

She was extremely proud to help her students participate in the Robocup competition this year.

Find out more about our work in Katherine

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