NDSS students Kaelan Baker, 18, and James Lynes, 17, tune up their robot during the first school district-wide VEX robotics competition at Wellington Secondary, June 13. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

First robotics competition whirs into Nanaimo school district

Students put their robots to the task at event

The whir of robots filled Wellington Secondary during the first-ever school district-wide VEX robotics competition.

Students across Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools tested the mettle of their hand-built robots in a number of competitions last week, from stacking rings to navigating from behind a wall, using only the camera mounted on their robots.

It was the first robotics competition in the school district, with teams coming together from Wellington, Dover Bay, Ladysmith and Nanaimo District Secondary School.

Students, mostly in robotics classes or clubs, heard about the day’s challenges ahead of time and had to design or create systems to do the tasks, like picking up rings and stacking them, manoeuvring between other robots and putting things in specific areas, according to Wellington robotics teacher Mike Dang.

Ethan Perpeluk, 14, from NDSS, won a challenge in which students’ robots had to pick up as many balls as possible in two minutes.

“It was cool. It put me on edge. I wasn’t sure about the first round, everybody else’s looked better, but mine turned out to be reliable and I won,” said Perpeluk of his robot, Tron, in the competition.

Perpeluk has been to other competitions with other VEX robots and said “it’s great to have some in town.”

NDSS team members Kaelan Baker, 18, and James Lynes, 17, also took home a win in the stacking competition with their robot Marvin, which came complete with a “booyah” sound effect.

“Our idea was if the competition was going well we would just play that every time we scored as a little ‘yeah, we got one,’ and so worked out well,” Lynes said, with a smile.

Lynes said he and Baker are sadly in Grade 12, so they won’t be able to take part in the district competitions next year and the years following, but he’s happy robotics is becoming a thing in other schools.

Dang said, at the event, that he hopes students leave the competition knowing their teammates a little better, learn teamwork, gain a sense of community and an “understanding [that] we are all in this together as as school district and that the challenges for each student is the same across the district.”

He said the sky’s the limit on the evolution of the competition, but said it can be bigger and better, move to different locations, and more challenges and teams can be added.

“I’d like to see a lot more females involved next year,” he said.

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