By Katie Kuchinskaya. Photos by Victor Yin.
On Saturday, October 15, Alpha Secondary School held the VEX Robotics Competition, starting the 2016 Robotics season, with 38 teams overall from around British Columbia. The event was sponsored by iDesign Solutions – a US corporation of professional engineers and geologists, who are investing into future specialists. According to the tournament’s commentator, “this was one of the largest starting events in BC,” which will lead the winning team and other awarded participants in separate categories to the regional championships.
The competition area followed an organization plan, with four fields prepared for the contestants: a practice field, a skills field for testing the robot’s abilities, and two “battlefields”. Several referee’s tables were placed from an observable spot to judge the abilities of the teams. All of this was separated by a barrier from the spectators.
The day began early, when the doors of the school's’ large gym opened. The preparation of the tables, catering, and seating organization were all tackled by a team of volunteers in only half-an-hour, and finished just as the first teams were pulling up to the entrance. Immediately the process of assembling began: connected wires, metal pieces, bolts, and batteries were brought together to form a robot, resembling a mini-crane with a distance-operating control system.
The “battlefields”, 12'x12' square fields, were arranged into two sides: blue and red, each one for opposing teams, divided by a small fence. The point of the game was to knock off stars and cubes into the opponent's part of the field. It’s very similar to volleyball, only that the criteria for the scores is based on two main factors – the area of the field where a unit landed (near or far zone), and the type of the unit. Each game in total last 1 minute and 45 seconds, with 4.5 minutes for the re-setup.
At 9:00 AM, the opening ceremony was held with the introduction to the game's rules and a listing of the award titles. Next, a modern version of the National Anthem was performed and the practice competitions began, gradually flowing into the first rounds. The excited spectators closely followed the game, and applause was granted to skillful contestants.
There were four teams representing Alpha at the tournament: 502 A, B, C and D (classes based on level of experience) generally called the AlphaRobotics. Each team had two control operators and two members preparing the robots and their positions, with four people in each team. An exception was the group with advanced students, which consisted of only two people. All of the team members are currently studying in the ACE-IT Robotics program and are interested in design and engineering as future career possibilities.
After a lunch break, at 12:30 pm, began the most exciting battles between highly experienced teams. Stars were catapulted over the fields in bunches of five; robots were getting into direct competition with each other, pushing the opponent to prevent them from taking aims. The whole process of the game setup was decreased to only three minutes, and the tournament adopted a fast-paced challenging environment. Nadiya Scratchley, a member of the 502 B team representing Alpha, reflected on her experience of the tournament: “I had a lot of fun, even though it was nerve-wracking. There were so many problems that our robot kept having, especially with the battery.’’The semi-finals were soon filled with extremely competitive rounds, with the final A-class competition ending in ties twice. Referees were jumping around the fields, unable to name the winner. (comments: the winner to be found out from Mr. Evanisky)
Awards were soon granted to the best contestants in the following categories: building, design, control skills, intense playing and others. Two advanced level Alpha Secondary students - Dylan and Patrick, won a robot design trophy for their creative ideas, and team AlphaRobotics 502 B became the winners among their class, honouring the school and (under question) moving through into the provincial level championship.