One team with one month and one robotics kit proudly represented Bermuda at the FIRST Global 2017 Robotics competition last week.
Despite the relatively short time to prepare, they beat the US, Canada, Russia and Britain to finish 59th out of 163 and were the top all-female team.
Team Bermuda consisted of Yulia Isaeva, the captain and driver, Katie Grainge, coder and driver, Ashlyn Lee, spokesperson and tactician, Kameron Young, coder and back-up driver, and Nadhiri Worrell-Simons, back-up driver.
The team, made up of Year 10 and 11 BHS students, overcame many challenges such as a lack of experience in creating a robot from scratch and having only a month to work on the robot, when most teams had six months.
However, they pulled through and created a robot that met the competition’s challenge with a combination of hard work, commitment and perseverance. Building the robot also resulted in the girls becoming closer, which helped them in the competition when it came to trusting and relying on each other.
The team received invaluable advice and mentorship from Dave Mallon of MA Consulting, Andy Newton and Chelito Desilva from Validus and Dave Greenslade. Financial sponsorship was given by Trunomi and Argus. Construction of the game playing field by D&J Construction and hosting and logistical support by the Bermuda High School.
When the team landed in Washington, it quickly became clear that they were representing Bermuda. Because engineering is widely thought of as a male career, each of the all-girls’ teams worked hard to prove they were just as skilled and prepared as the other team.
The FIRST Global Challenge sought to address the issue of providing access to clean water — more than one billion people do not have access to clean water and over half of them are children.
In the game challenge, three teams worked together to remove as many contaminants from a river as possible, as another alliance of three teams sought to do the same on the other side. This was simulated with a constant stream of plastic balls, blue representing clean water and orange representing contaminants.
As most of the other robots were much larger than the Bermuda team’s, the girls had to figure out how to work around them while simultaneously collecting the correct balls.
The team was not always successful and their robot was knocked over by some of the other teams’ robots multiple times. The team sacrificed weight and bulkiness for speed and precise movements at the cost of being easy to push over.
However, this problem did not prove to be fatal as the team was often assisted by the other teams in our alliance. They quickly gained the skill of being able to nimbly grab the balls and get out of the fray before being crushed.
Working with teams from around the world allowed the girls of Team Bermuda to see the different ways that the competition could be approached. With 163 teams representing 157 countries in the competition, the team enjoyed seeing the different approaches other teams took when solving problems.
With problem-solving, coding, communication and team work being sought-after skills, Team Bermuda gained valuable experience in problem solving, communication, strategy and teamwork to add to the technical skills developed through the coding and engineering required for the competition.