Lithgow High School proves itself a robotics comp contender

Lithgow High School’s robotics students had a thrilling First Robotics Competition in Sydney last week, finishing 19th in an international field including representatives from NASA. 

The team, known as the Blast Furnace Bots, were presented with an Imagery Award in recognition of their design, engineering and pit work in the competition. 

The students had six weeks to design and build a robot to take on challenges set by the competition organisers. The configuration of the bot was completely up to the students, who designed a robot with six motors needed to run its mechanisms and its two separate gear boxes. The team included students from Year 7 to 12. 

A hefty 35kg in weight, Jenny, as she was named, was controlled by two operators 30m away and also had to be able to begin each challenge round autonomously. 

Students follow a complex set of rules and their design has to pass scrutineers’ judgement. 

“Students then have to re-engineer solutions in a limited time frame,” Lithgow High School teacher Peter Brownlow said. 

The LHS team had to completely redesign and build the mechanism that collected and loaded balls as well as their system to allow the robot, nicknamed Jenny, to climb a rope for extra points. 

There were more challenges, with a break mended after a crash into another robot. 

Lithgow students celebrated this year’s theme, Steam Punk, by sewing and decorating vests and dressing up on the sideline. 

“I think the Steam Punk theme lends itself really well to Lithgow, and to our team name, the Blast Furnace Bots,” Mr Brownlow said. 

First Robotics has been designed to encourage more students, particularly women and girls, to enter the iSTEM field (Invigorating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). 

The winner of the First Robotics competition will be off to the US for the world championship event.

“One of the great things about this competition was it gave the kids a chance to rub shoulders with the best and brightest in this area and pick up some really clever ideas,” Mr Brownlow said. 

This was the second year that the Blast Furnace Bots have competed. Their 19th place finish in 2017 was ten places better than their debut in 2016, when they finished 29th