PEI

P.E.I. students to compete in world robotic competition

Two students from Grace Christian School in Charlottetown are taking their custom-built creation to the world's largest robotics competition in Detroit later this year to compete against thousands of students from around the world.

'They really excelled and put a lot of time into it and the work paid off'

'It was actually super exciting,' says Charlotte Cluney, right, with fellow student Meng Juechen, left, and coach Jordan Ellis at last weekend's Robofest in Nova Scotia. (Jordan Ellis)

Two students from Grace Christian School in Charlottetown are taking their custom-built creation to the Robofest World Championship in Detroit in May.

Mengjue Chen and Charlotte Cluney along with their coach Jordan Ellis won the berth on the world stage after coming fifth last weekend out of 27 teams at a competition in Wolfville, N.S. 

"We didn't expect necessarily to finish that high compared to all the other established teams that had been going to this competition for a number of years," Ellis told CBC Radio's Island Morning host Mitch Cormier. 

This is the inaugural year for the robotics class at Grace Christian, said Ellis, and he wanted to find an opportunity for students to test themselves. 

"These two students really wanted to do their best and they weren't satisfied with just doing a all right — they really excelled and put a lot of time into it and the work paid off," said Ellis. 

'Game-ending mission'

Building the first prototype took the students about a month, Chen said. Their current robot is their second, which improved on the original design.

Chen, left, and Cluney adjust their robot at the Robofest competition. (Jordan Ellis)

The students had to pre-program their robot to position and stack black and white blocks. They could touch the robot to program it only in the starting phase — after that it was hands off, with no remote control. 

"There was another thing they threw at us; it's called a game-ending mission," said Cluney. They had no idea what the challenge would entail until the last minute. 

"We had to be prepared for it to lift, for it to go anywhere on the table. We just had to prepare as best as possible for anything they'd throw at us," she said. 

Future engineers

"It was actually super exciting," said Cluney. "We were in eighth place in the first round, and it was like, OK, three spots is a little bit much to jump but we'll see what happens." 

The students' robot had to be ready to carry out about 60 different moves. (Jordan Ellis)

They did much better in their second round of competition, she said. "When we heard that we actually made the cut ... it was like, wow."

The team now has three months before the world competition, and they have a long list of improvements they'd like to make to their robot.

The scenario will be the same, Chen said, but the bar will be higher. 

Both students say they plan to pursue engineering and believe their robotics class will give them an edge. 

"I feel really good going into university already having some experience with that," Cluney said. "I'm not coming into it cold. I already have some knowledge." 

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With files from CBC Radio: Island Morning

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