BRAINS OF BRITAIN: The winning team from Queen Elizabeth’s School
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by LAUREN CODLING

PUPILS from a school in north London were named world champions at the world’s largest
robotic tournament last month, making them the first UK team ever to win the accolade.

The boys from Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, north London, brought home the Vex IQ Challenge Excellence Award from the Vex IQ Challenge International Robotics Finals in Kentucky, USA.

The prize is the highest achievement presented in the Vex IQ programme and is awarded to a team which illustrates overall excellence in building a high-quality robotics programme.

As well as the prestigious world title, the boys also won an additional prize called the Amaze Award which was for a combination of the design, functionality and programming of the robots they developed.

Separated into two teams (‘Technogear’ and ‘Gear Squad’), the 10 pupils competed against competitors from all over the world. By winning their age categories, the boys beat around 400 teams from 40 different countries.

The two teams consist of Year 9 pupils Vihaan Jain, Varun Vijay Kumar, Shilacshan Lingakumar, Dillan Shah and Alex Woodcock; and Year 8 pupils Arjun Arunkumar, Dylan Domb, Aditya Khanna, Anish Rana and Yash Shah.

The boys, aged 12 to 14, designed two robots and a game which could demonstrate their uses. The aim of the game is to place as many rings as possible on posts, with bonus points for rings of the same colour being placed on a specific post.

The two robots have different strategies to pick up and organise the rings. For instance, one of the robots uses a colour sensor to organise the different colours.

The boys with the trophy in Kentucky

Organisations which helped to sponsor the boys to support their efforts included Kuka Robotics, Rewired, Dream Quark, Concured, and Optimal Industrial Automation.

As it was only the second time that students from the state-funded grammar school had competed, bringing home the most celebrated prize was a big surprise to the boys.

Team captains Dillan Shah and Arjun Arunkumar told Eastern Eye that their initial reaction was shock.

“To go all the way to Kentucky was amazing in general, but to win the world championships was even better and a massive achievement,” Shah said.

“Once the shock had settled in, we and our families were very happy,” Arunkumar agreed. “All the hard work that we had put in for the competition had paid off.”

Technology teacher Shane Ryan, 27, has worked at the school for three years and was one of two teachers who accompanied the boys to Kentucky.

When speaking to Eastern Eye, he described the teams as “dedicated, diligent and motivated” students.

“Winning the world championship has shown the students that they can achieve anything they want to, especially in relation to STEM projects,” Ryan said. “As this is only the second year that the school has competed, it has been a fantastic achievement.”

He added the win was also an opportunity to motivate pupils in applying for the competition next year.

The project was entirely student-led, which meant teachers had no input on the final design or concept.

The QE boys have all became close friends since they worked together on the winning robots

Yash Shah explained: “It was a student-led effort, although our teachers encouraged us to solve our own problems and pushed us in the right direction so we could reach a solution as a team.”

The competition also meant the boys met with other aspiring competitors who had their eye on the prize. Dylan Domb said an interesting aspect of this meant they were able to interact with other pupils from different cultures and background.

“There were over 40 teams and some of the teams didn’t speak English. It was really fun trying to communicate and get along with them,” Domb said.

Looking to the future, several of the boys are now hoping to pursue careers in STEM-related fields, including robotic engineering.

As well as inspiring their future, the competition has also meant the teams have developed close friendships. Some of the boys had never interacted together before the project and they all agreed it was a great experience getting to know one another.

Yash Shah revealed: “It was really interesting to work with people I’d never actually talked to before… [to] then develop a close bond and have a great experience with them was really amazing.”