When Lynfield College in Auckland launched its robotics team in 2008, the team was just a small group of boys and girls who tinkered around with electronics in a garage after school.
Fast forward eight years, and Lynfield has been named the top-performing school in the world at the VEX World Robotics Competition.
Aimed at giving young people a passion for science and technology, the VEX competition involves students working together in teams to pit robots against each other in skills matches. It’s the biggest and fastest-growing robotics competition in the world.
Technology teacher and team leader Craig Yearbury says the competition teaches students a wide range of skills, including programming, teamwork, design and communication.
Irisha Inamke joined the robotics team two years ago, when she was in Year 10. “It’s lots of fun and I like working in a group. You spend hours of your time with your friends and learning how other people think, which is cool,” says Irisha.
“You’re not just being told things — you’re learning by doing things for yourself, and by talking to others. It feels very free.”
Irisha expects to carry on her interest in electronics after she finishes school. “I want to go into bioengineering and focus on how robots can be used to help people.”
In the weeks before the world championships, students work on their robots for three or four hours after school each day, and all day in the weekends.
The students’ hard work paid off at the world champs in the US in April 2016, when Lynfield College won the competition’s ultimate award — the High School Excellence Award — as well as the Robot Skills World Champions Award.