Special recognition for Bay robotics team

Luca Ririnui, Ryan Kayser and Sam Orsler with their robot and their trophy on top at the VEX Robotics World Championships. Photo: Supplied.

Two teams of Tauranga teenagers are on their way home from VEX Robotics World Championships in the United States with a coveted trophy.

The largest robotics competition in the world is run during three days and attracts hundreds of school-aged teams. Two robotics teams from the Tauranga-based charitable trust, STEAM-ED, qualified and travelled to the event in Dallas, Texas, this month.

The middle school team, made up of Otumoetai College students Noah Douglas and Dom Absalom and Tauranga Boys’ College student Nate Wadsworth, won nine out of their 10 team qualification matches in their division – but got knocked out in the quarter finals in a very close, high-scoring match.

Trust general manager Toni de Rijk says the high school team of Sam Orsler, Ryan Kayser and Luca Ririnui – all from Mount Maunganui College – won seven out of 10 of their team round robin matches.

“They were placed in the top 50 of more than 800 teams competing in the individual skills challenge, measuring driving and programming skills. They also qualified for the tournament elimination finals but were eliminated in the final 16, beaten by the eventual winners of their division.”

However, they are thrilled to have received the Judges Award at the end of competition. “The judges were impressed by the boys’ all-round ability in robot design, team work, individual skills, notebook records, team interview and sportsmanship,” says Toni.

That trophy is presented to the team that’s most deserving of special recognition. It’s great that they’ll be bringing home some hardware from worlds.

“We are so proud of both of our teams and the high level they competed at.”

For 16-year-old Sam Orsler, the best part of competing at the worlds was meeting new teams and checking out different robot designs.

“The competition was what I expected but the size surprised me. The arena was massive. The centre was about 2km long and it took ages to walk from the pit area to the playing fields,” says Sam.

It’s the third time his team has qualified for the worlds, but Covid meant they couldn’t compete in the US the last two years – so Sam and his teammates are thrilled to pick up an award this time.

“We were crossing our fingers that we would win something because we knew we had done well, and the judges were quite impressed with our robot when we were interviewed by them,” says Sam. “It’s a really good feeling to win something on the world stage against some really good robots and teams.”

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