So this is it. It’s 4am, jetlag still playing a part in our Roboteers life and in a few short hours we will leave the hotel, walk half a mile through a parking lot next to the Kentucky Kingdom theme park and enter the grand and imposing Kentucky Exposition Centre.
It’s the Vex Robotics World Championships and our little band of Roboteers from a small town centre school, in a small town on the east coast of a small island 4,100 odd miles away aree preparing for the competition…admittedly most of them are doing that by sleeping soundly, oblivious to the fact this blog is even being written.
Yesterday (Saturday) our team had a day off, so took the opportunity to visit the sights of Louisville. We walked along the river, crossed the mighty Ohio into Indiana (no passports required), enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of fun, laughter and built new friendships with fellow UK primary school, Howes all the way from Coventry and a school very similar to our own.
It was important to squeeze that downtime in as Friday was simply a day of travel as we left the school gates at 4am, all aboard a minibus bound for Heathrow T3 and 19 hours of departure lounges, inflight movies, homework and snatched meals. Touchdown in Louisville was bumpy (to be polite) but the sun was shining, the airport gleaming and the people incredibly helpful, as we strolled outside and boarded a public bus to take us the couple of miles to our hotel…the Super 8.
And there dear reader is where you find us now. It’s Sunday morning, 4 Roboteers, a pelicase full of bits of a robot, not so much a million dreams, rather a shed load of opportunities to exploit. Fun to be had, Friends to be made. Experiences to be enjoyed. All in an unfamiliar country, full of warm and welcoming people. This is the Vex Worlds…let’s do it!
Why oh why would they do such a thing I hear you cry! Well they travelled to the county seat of Essex for a very good reason. They were there to visit the studios of BBC Radio Essex and to be interviewed live on the Dave Monk Drive Time show with Ian Puckey on wheels of steel…yes I actually just wrote that!
So the real question is…did you listen to it? 8 Minutes of some of the best radio you are going to hear. Joel, Alex, Will, Talia and Joe all took turns answering questions on everything from what motivated them to get involved, through to whether they are going to grow up and be involved in the robot industry.
If you did miss it then you are in luck. Click this link and tune in about 25 mins from the end (about the 1835 point).
So it’s been a really busy day at North School Roboteer HQ. We’ve had a media frenzy with ITV News in filming our young Roboteers and the Colchester Evening Gazette publishing a story. We’ve also been busy in the design studio running up artwork and ideas for our new competition t-shirt.
Like every great film, a great story should begin with context…think the rolling pre-amble at the start of every Star Wars movie bringing you bang up to speed on the dastardly deeds of the evil empire.
And so it is with this story as well. This however is a story about a journey, a journey that hasn’t yet been completed and the protagonists have no idea how the final scene will play out. This is a story about 5 kids, 1 robot and a million dreams as we follow them on their journey from a small town centre school in Colchester, UK to Louisville, Kentucky, USA via Telford of all places. This then is the story of the North School Roboteers!
Let us just go back a bit…and I promise to keep this nice and short. North School has a Robotics Club that is part of the wider STEM programme and selects 5 or 6 children each year as they enter Year 6 to form this club. It is free, with costs covered by the school. This is why it is limited, I don’t know if you know this but robots can get a bit expensive! Anyway, we have this club and each year they compete with other schools in the local area for a chance to compete at the VexIQ National Championships. Guess what? We qualified! Fantastic for the children and kudos to the school. So off we all go to Telford…which is a medium-sized town with a huge convention centre somewhere west of Birmingham. 5 Kids, 1 robot, a couple of teachers and a slew of parents all off to enjoy the occasion. 2 days of intense competition, 8 judges, 6 skills tests, 6 team events and lots of fun ended with us packing up and trying to make a speedy exit to get ahead of the traffic on our 4 hour journey home. Only to be quietly but firmly ushered back to our seats by one of the organisers to watch teams compete in the team finals and collect their trophies. Only at the very end did we realise why we had been carefully reseated.
North Primary School…our small band of Roboteers had won the Excellence Award. That is the highest award presented in the VEX IQ Challenge. It recognises the team that exemplifies overall excellence in creating a high quality robotics program. It is a team that excelled in every area and was a shining example of dedication, devotion, hard work and teamwork as well as all the technical elements required to impress the judges. This is a team that is committed to quality in everything that they do and was a strong contender in every award categories at the event.
And so we find ourselves here dear reader. Just over a month to go before our brave and bold team of Roboteers embark on the next stage of this epic journey. It’s off to the Vex World Championships. Representing our country, inspiring others and hopefully having some fun along the way!