Innovation in teaching industry skills through robotics
Students from across the Gladstone Region are learning important skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) by participating in the 6th Annual Gladstone Robotics Competition. This year’s competition brings a complete re-design to the mat and challenges and students are jumping headfirst into preparing their prototypes for the industry-themed event. Over one hundred and seventy students from ten schools will be in attendance this year.
The competition is a partnership between local state schools and the competition’s industry supporters. Queensland Alumina Limited and Rio Tinto Yarwun provide financial support and mentors. Boyne Smelters Limited supports the program by providing additional mentors. Industry STEM mentors have been integral in re-designing the robotics challenges to mirror processes which take place at local industrial sites. The mentors help judge the competition and mentor students at the event.
This event has been very popular since it was first run six years ago and the challenge was re-designed this year to keep the competition fresh and exciting for participants. Dr. Cal Devney, an event organiser said, ‘We have students who have participated in the challenge every year it has been held, beginning when they were in Grade 3 or 4. Now those students are in Grade 9 or 10 and we were keen to continue to engage them, as well as all of our new participants, by making exciting changes to the competition challenges.’
Teams competing in this year’s event are tasked with designing and programming two autonomous robots. One robot will collect bauxite and alumina and bring them back to base where a second robot will sort the bauxite and alumina using a hopper, a conveyor belt system, colour sensors and motors. With two teams competing at each mat, there are likely to be some collisions as the opposing robots seek the limited number of valuable materials.
Students are not only excited about the competition, but that they can also engage with potential career pathways first-hand in a fun and collaborative learning environment. QAL General Manager Pine Pienaar said “It is great to see the students enhance their learning experience with the mats. We are excited to be able to support and be involved in the Gladstone Robotics Competition again in 2022. This competition is a fun and engaging opportunity for our staff to share their skills while providing a development opportunity for students in areas that feed into a career within local industry. Best of luck to all students competing in this year’s Robotics Competition”.