Community Papers

Grade 6 Richmond students grasp robotics top prize

The Robokids Club brought bragging rights back to Canada after their performance at the VEX Robotics competition in Anaheim. -
The Robokids Club brought bragging rights back to Canada after their performance at the VEX Robotics competition in Anaheim.
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Four years worth of lessons in computer programming and problem-solving paid off for four local Grade 6 students.

Desmund Sun, Dexter Niu, Roark Zhang and William Liu, who for the past four years have been part of the Robokids Club, brought bragging rights back to Canada after their performance at the VEX Robotics competition in Anaheim, California in May.

Mentored by Jason Zhang, who majored in computer science and holds a master’s degree in education, the team won the British Columbia title in March, and have been working on their latest robot ever since.

Up against 60 teams from 20 countries in their division, they came away as World Champions for 2014.

A total of 760 robotics teams from around the world, including China, Mexico and the United States, took part in the championships, which drew 15,000 participants, with the Richmond squad entering the VEX IQ championships.

Zhang said he sought a platform via which he could engage children to learn about traditionally-boring computer programming in a fun and stimulating way.

What kid doesn’t like robots, he thought, so he opened a robotics club where children learn about computer code writing and languages, with a view to making a robot do what they want.

At the competition, the students’ robotic creation needed to be capable of operating autonomously as well as via remote-control in a driver mode.

Each team was tasked with designing a robot capable of quickly moving large and small multi-sided plastic balls (bucky balls) into goals either positioned on the floor, or elevated, with the harder targets earning more points. As well, the robots need to be able to place life-saver shaped hoops on scoring rings, and be able to hang from a high bar at the end of the match.

Teams were also aligned in pairs, where they had to work together toward a common goal, with the emphasis being on teamwork.

The final challenge was to come up with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) research project which this year had a mathematical theme. The local team of 11 year olds came up with a robot capable of measuring the height of a remote object using simple trigonometry.

It was in the team competition where the local group excelled.

Partnered with Discobots from Houston, Texas, the two teams powered to the final.

That’s where they scored 142 out of a possible 156 points to jointly grasp the Teamwork Champion Alliance Trophy in the Middle School division.

Zhang said his club has 200 kids enrolled and they meet once per week.

For more information about Robokids, visit or call them at 604-630-2413.

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