Young students take robotics challenge at CPIT bootcamp

Young students take robotics challenge at CPIT bootcamp

Robotics is a growing sport in Christchurch and it’s about to get much bigger judging by the popularity of an event at CPIT this week.

Some 60 primary and intermediate school students attended the VEX IQ Robotics Challenge on 6 and 7 October, but twice as many students applied for the programme.

VEX IQ is an international robotics platform that inspires STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) learning in young students and their teachers through competitions and challenges. The system is designed to be used at a variety of levels and abilities from beginner to advanced level.


At the more advanced end of the spectrum is Diploma of Engineering Technology student at CPIT Harry Loughnan who is a regular at international VEX events as a participant and as a judge. Harry was back at CPIT during the holidays to help introduce the newbies to the delights of robotics competitions.

“I started off with the Robocup and then I grew into the main VEX competition, which was a bootcamp here in Christchurch, and ever since then I have been hooked on it.”

One of the big attractions is getting together with like-minded people. “It is my third time this year at the VEX world championships. I guess you could say it is addictive. It’s the atmosphere. You’re in a room with 11,000 other nerds who are just as passionate as you. Everyone you talk to has the same interest. It’s not like any other sport, everyone is willing to talk to you and help you.”

On a smaller scale, Harry sees the same thing happening at the Christchurch bootcamp.

“A lot of these kids are tech savvy and at their schools they might be the minority but when the minority gets together everyone has a great time. They might see three or four people with the same interests on a daily basis but they turn up here and there’s 60 people - everyone just wants to talk, share experiences and help each other.”

CPIT STEM Coordinator Miranda Satterthwaite says the bootcamp encourages students to be innovative and enterprising through the project-based learning approach. “We know when the students leave this camp they will have the skills not only to be better technologists and scientists but also to work in teams and find solutions.

“We’d love to see these students with these new leadership skills go back to the schools and be ambassadors for VEX IQ and set up some clubs of their own so we keep developing the engineers of the future.”

The good news for teachers is that VEX IQ Bootcamp is backed up by the free online VEX IQ STEM Curriculum.

The VEX IQ Robotics Bootcamp introduced students to Autodesk Inventor as a tool to design VEX IQ Robots. With guidance from engineers and mentors, students then built a robot to solve an engineering challenge that is presented in the form of a game.

The students then learned how to modify their robot, build a clawbot and learn about programming the clawbot using Robot C. By becoming familiar with the robot brain, controller, smart motors and sensors, students took on the challenge of autonomous control of their robot.