The Selkirk College gym was full of children, from elementary through high school. Each had built their own robot and had come to compete in the RobotGames.
The Nelson Tech Club held their seventh annual event on Saturday, in collaboration with MIDAS labs and GLOWS. Over the years hundreds of competitors have come from around the West Kootenay/Boundary to test their robots in the ring.
Anyone can sign up, no experience necessary. Kids are encouraged to buy an mBot kit to learn programming, electronics and robotics skills. They have access to online lessons to help them build and customize their robots.
“We started our tech clubs because not enough students were getting involved in science and techonology programs,” says RobotGames founder Brad Pommen.
“School are just learning to adopt it. We took it as our mission to bring that to the students so they could bring that back to the classroom … the engagement level here really does trickle back into the schools.”
“A lot of the kids from RobotGames we see in classrooms down the road,” said Matt Martin, a recruitment officer at Selkirk.
There were six regular events this year, including line following, obstacle course, robot battles, robot soccer, special tricks and balloon popping. Each event is meant to test a different skill and give kids a chance to use their unique talents and interests in the ring.
This year the RobotGames introduced a new event for the grande finale, the Balloon Popping Royal Rumble. All robots had a balloon tied to them and were put in the ring together. The melee continued until only one robot was left standing. The winner, Rowan Vibe-Coleman, got an iPod Touch for her balloon-popping prowess.
Vibe-Coleman also built a human-like robot which won the special trick event. Rowbee can show emotion, making happy, sad, excited and mad faces.
Robots are judged on design and assembly, programming and logic, ability to problem-solve, and ability to adapt to challenging situations.
Winners are announced after all events have taken place. Awards are given for the six main events plus special categories such as Top Competitor and Top Number of Restarts.
Kids sign up for many reasons. Ian Richards of Kinnaird Elementary said he’s interested in seeing the different designs and modifications each person makes to their unique robot.
His sister, Grace Richards, said she likes that she can build her own thing to compete with. She designed her robot for the balloon popping event with a skewer stick and safety pin stuck to the end.
Kaiden Hoff and Tali Cox designed their robot for battle. Abigail and Timmy Makwati said they wanted to compete this year after watching RobotGames last year.