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Robots: 73 international and Aussie teams competing at Sydney Olympic Park

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High school teams from across the Asia Pacific have descended upon the Quaycentre to battle it out at the FIRST Robotics Competition Australian Regionals. The Power UP competition kicked off on Sunday 11 March with three-team alliances facing off in the two-and-a-half minute matches.

“It’s a competition, but it also teaches students design and engineering skills when they’re building their robots,” explains FIRST Australia director Luan Heimlich.

“They benefit from learning how to work together in teams, and cooperate and solve problems with tangible outcomes.”

This year’s theme is Power Up which finds teams and their robots stuck inside an old-school video arcade game, where they have to use power cubes to defeat the boss.

For the first 15 seconds of each match the robots operate autonomously, following pre-programmed instructions. Then human operators remotely control their robots for the remaining two minutes and fifteen seconds of each bout.

FIRST Australia is an initiative of the FIRST Foundation and Macquarie University, and is presented with the support of Google Australia, Ford Australia and other partners.

Executive Dean of Macquarie’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Barbara Messerle, says it gives players a valuable insight into what a career in science, technology, engineering, or maths might look like.

“The best scientists and engineers have a passion for their field, and a desire to tackle the global challenges of our times,” she says.

“We’re hoping that by taking part in FIRST, these students will not only have a lot of fun but realise the kinds of careers they now have the skills to pursue.”

“Future innovations and inventions in Australia will come from students gaining skills in STEM and computer science today,” says Google Australia’s Engineering Community and Outreach Manager, Sally-Ann Williams.

It’s a sentiment Asia Pacific STEAM Specialist at Ford Australia, Louise Nance, agrees with.

FIRST allows students from diverse backgrounds to develop skills that will be critical in the workforce of the future,” she says.


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