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Choo Choo’s in China

After getting their feet wet at the FIRST Global Robot Olympics last year and returning home from Washington, D.C., with a 64th place showing out of a 163-strong field from 157 nations and six continental representatives, a four-person St. Augustine’s College (SAC) squad is testing that very same robot – which they’ve named Choo Choo – in competition at the 18th World Adolescent Robotics Competition (WARC 2018) in Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, China.

Started in 2001, the China Adolescent Robotics Competition (CARC) is an annual event for primary and secondary schools all over the country. Students design and build robots, applying their knowledge in science, engineering, mathematics and computer programming. In the meantime, they learn the skills of communication, teamwork and problem solving, which are not only rewarding right now, but also proven paths to successful careers and brighter futures. Each year CARC attracts over 1,400 young students and the winning teams are qualified for the international robotics competitions.

SAC graduate Perdawn Taylor, who will enter the University of The Bahamas (UB) in the fall to study computer science, captains the squad, to which newbies Jervon Saunders and Eugene Thompson, who will enter 12th grade in the fall, have been added. Computer studies teacher Dauran McNeil is with the team.

“I think we’re really prepared,” said McNeil ahead of the team’s departure for the July 20–25 competition. “We have one of the students from the 2017 competition as captain in Perdawn Taylor, and I think he’s very capable of leading the team in achieving the goal in terms of actually competing, since we would have gotten experience in the competition last year.”

After last year’s competition, McNeil said they are familiar with the rules and technique, which Taylor was able to share with the new team members.

“I think we’re going to have a good chance in trying, and hopefully getting one of the awards [this year],” said McNeil.

At the FIRST Global event, SAC overcame a difficult start and had to troubleshoot on the spot after discovering electrical wiring difficulties. Problems with the robot’s hanging also had to be revamped. Once the team got over the hump, their robot was able to put in a strong performance in the year when the competition’s theme focused on access to clean water. Competing in randomly assigned three-team alliances, during each round of play, teams had to remove contaminant particles from a simulated river, a task that was best accomplished if robots within an alliance worked together. The more contaminants a robot collected, the more points a team received.

WARC 2018 is an exposition of the H2O Flow from the 2017 First Global Challenge. At WARC, the SAC team is again in an alliance, having teamed up with another country to get the job done. They will compete over four days.

The SAC squad will utilize the same robot they built last year.

“At First Global, since we had a mishap with our robot and one of the parts wasn’t working, that was the reason why we had to do a new framework and a new build add-on to it, but this time, our robot is good and is working. So this time when we go, we don’t have to worry about making any more enhancements. We’re going there with a robot that’s already constructed and ready to compete,” said McNeil.

“Because our robot was so good, in terms of the add-ons that we were able to do while in Washington, we decided to just make one or two modifications that we needed to change with the robot, so it’s basically one or two modifications we did, and we’re just going to go with that because it’s a seamless and a pretty good design that we have, and [it] gets the job done,” said McNeil.

SAC was invited to the competition at which 116 teams from around the world will compete, including 15 international teams that participated in the FIRST Global program in 2017, which was how SAC got its invite. Their team was invited in April.

The SAC team’s appearance at WARC is courtesy of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), which hosts the competition and paid airfare, accommodations and meals for countries invited to the competition that they deemed most in need, according to McNeil. The SAC squad was able to take advantage of the sponsorship.

McNeil said they were grateful for the opportunity; he said the exposure would be great for the students, who had not received an invitation to the 2018 First Global Olympics.

“At first we didn’t know how we would get the funds [to make the trip]. For the team it was very disappointing that we would not get to go to the 2018 First Global this year,” said McNeil. “We had other students who were interested in going [to FIRST Global] after hearing about the experience from the other students, so we were really disappointed that we wouldn’t get to go to. So when this opportunity came about, I was excited and glad that new students would get another opportunity and exposure to STEM.”

The team is smaller than the six-person squad that participated in Washington, D.C., last year. CAST limits the number of students who can attend as well as the coach. CAST provided sponsorship to invited teams in terms of paying for accommodations and meals, according to McNeil.

The computer studies teacher selected the squad based upon the students’ experience in the school’s Google CS First Club.

“I basically was able to select students based upon experience, dedication, teamwork and collaboration,” he said.

The SAC squad also purchased Androsian shirts, which they will wear during cultural night at the competition.

Shavaughn Moss

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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