Hawke’s Bay techie teens contest global robotics comp


Hawke’s Bay students Ella White, Mary-Jane Richards, Jimmy August and Ruby Langford will represent New Zealand at the First Global Challenge in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2022. Hawke’s Bay Today reporter James Pocock chats with the creators.

A team of tech-savvy teenagers from Hawke’s Bay will represent New Zealand and take on the world in the Robotics Olympics.

Jimmy August (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui), Ella White (Te Ātiawa), Ruby Langford from Havelock North High School and Mary-Jane Richards (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) from Karamu High School were selected to represent New New Zealand as Blackbots at the FIRST Global Challenge.

The event, taking place in Geneva, Switzerland from October 13-16, is an international youth robotics challenge that involves teams from more than 180 countries.

The four high school students developed their skills coding, building and flying Lego robots in elementary or middle school.

This competition represents the next level with a whole new type of robot and coding.

August has already had international success as a member of the Blackbots team which finished second in the 2019 FIRST Lego competition in the United States.

Richards was a member of a Hawke’s Bay team that was the FIRST Lego National Champion in 2020 and was scheduled to travel to Texas with the Blackbots before pandemic travel restrictions hit.

White and Langford have slightly less experience but have competed at a high level before in other sporting codes.

Langford said she had robotics as an intermediate subject.

“I really enjoyed it. I had the opportunity to do the FIRST tech challenge and thought why not get on board and give it a try.”

White said the new experience was fun.

“It’s definitely a lot of new information, but just sticking with it from the get-go was fun,” White said.

The four teenagers from Hawke's Bay prepare to represent New Zealand at the FIRST Global Challenge left to right: Ella White, Mary-Jane Richards, Jimmy August, Ruby Langford.  Photo / Paul Taylor
The four teenagers from Hawke’s Bay prepare to represent New Zealand at the FIRST Global Challenge left to right: Ella White, Mary-Jane Richards, Jimmy August, Ruby Langford. Photo / Paul Taylor

FIRST Global Challenge teams are given a standard kit of parts to design, assemble and code a robot from scratch to complete tasks in a themed game based on real challenges facing world governments.

In previous games, alliances have worked to move and manipulate objects in different games on uniquely designed playgrounds that change every year.

Teams don’t know what they’ll get in the kit or what this year’s challenge will be until closer to the event date.

FIRST team liaison Ricardo Fox said the Hawke’s Bay youngsters chose robotics as the best of any region in New Zealand and dominated nationally.

“Elementary schools built it and now we’re trying to get secondary schools involved,” Fox said.

FIRST New Zealand representative and team mentor Brendon White said collaboration was a core value for the competition and students who were not selected to represent New Zealand still worked with the team of four and contributed.

“One of the core values ​​of FIRST is collaboration and this has been the basis of the successes of young students nationally and internationally.”


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