The website for Upper Canada College uses cookies to enhance the user experience. To review our Privacy Policy, please click on "Additional Information" button above.

Student-built VEX robots compete in provincial championships

“It’s a testament to their hard work that two of the four Upper School teams, along with the Prep team, made it to provincials,” says Paul Miskew, faculty chair of design.
VEX EDR robotics requires students to use metal parts, wheels, motors and computer code to create a robot. Each spring, the international governing body reveals the tasks the new breed of robot must undertake to play the year’s competitive game. The students spend the summer honing a variety of skills as they design, prototype, build and program the robots.

Students who have taken design courses already have some of the relevant skills, as do those conversant with coding or mechanics. Others learn as they go.

“I had to learn everything, since I hadn’t done any of this before,” says James Medland, a Year 10 student new to the robotics club. “I did a lot of building and learned about drivetrain mechanics and gear ratios. By the end of the season, I could almost build my own robot.”

All club members contributed their talents, including Edmond Shen, Year 9, with 3-D modelling; Harrison Shiu (Year 11) with laser cutting; Matthew Chan (Year 11) with pneumatics; and Nicholas Cheng (Year 11) with programming.

“They had a really good team approach to building their robots,” says Miskew.

The VEX EDR club officially meets once a week, but unofficially the members head to the Atkins Family Design Lab to work on their robots whenever they have a moment.

“We come during lunch breaks, spares, anytime we can,” says Harrison.

Once the competition season begins, they are busy most weekends pitting their robots against other teams. As they compete, the team members assess how well their robots perform against the competition. Afterwards, they tweak their machines. By the end of the competitive season, a robot might look completely different than it did when the season started — and it will perform better.

This year’s VEX EDR game required the robot to pick up or sweep three-dimensional triangular “balls” into a short soccer net. Matches lasted two minutes, with the robot having to move autonomously for the first 15 seconds before a team member took over and directed it. The teams also earned extra points for specific features — such as climbing onto a bar — and for completing a design journal.

The Upper School teams performed well enough to earn places in the elimination rounds of the provincial tournament, but didn’t qualify for the world championships. However, they’ll be back next year, stronger and more determined than ever.

“We enjoyed the games,” says Matthew. “There are always different challenges that test our design skills.”

Lynda Yearwood, the design teacher who is adviser to the Prep’s VEX IQ club, which is in its first year, was pleased with the Prep team’s showing at provincials, too.

“From my point of view the team had a great day,” she says. “They achieved their highest combination score of the season in the skills portion of the event, and they had many good matches throughout the day.

”As our vanguard VEX IQ team in our first-ever season, they have set a nicely high bar for the teams that are to come.”
The word experience The UCC Difference