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Charles Darwin School

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Students excel at Science and Technology final

On Friday 13th January 2017, Owen Cornelius-Rumsey and Daniel Mitsev, both in Year 10 competed in the Science and Technology Southern Challenge final at Queen Mary’s University, London.

Braving the snow and ice and some treacherous conditions on the roads, they travelled with two teachers to the university campus in Mile End. The event was hosted by Professor Kaspar Althoeffer, Director of the Robotics Faculty at the university, and was attended by pupils from a number of top secondary schools in London and southern England. To reach this final, students had to have won their local area Challenge, and Daniel and Owen had achieved this by winning the Bromley area event.

On the day, the two boys formed a team with three other students; William Battersby and Robin Warner of Esher Church of England High School, and Rex Galenta from St. Bonaventure’s School in Newham. Eight teams competed in all. The teams were set an ingeniously testing series of tasks to complete; the main challenge being to develop software to navigate a robotic car around a very tricky race course, full of right angle turns.  Not only did the car have to navigate the course without being touched or moved by the students, it also had to perform a special task or manoeuvre to demonstrate individuality. Teams were judged in three areas: teamwork, planning and the final product or performance.

After a fascinating talk by Professor Althoeffer on some of the robotics projects at the university, including medical and industrial applications, the teams were set to work.

From the outset, the ‘Bromley Team’ showed excellent team working skills and the programming of Owen-bot, their affectionate name for the robot car, proceeded apace. In early test runs, Owen–bot outshone its competitors, navigating further around the course than any other vehicle, and the team’s strategy of programming the model car to finish the course cleanly and quickly, was showing great promise.

Yet, as often is the case in research and development projects, disaster struck. For an unfathomable reason, the robot car suddenly stopped picking up the signals to turn. Though quick to make adjustments to the car’s programming, the team had very little time in which to check the car on the race circuit, which in the end, proved decisive. Despite great early promise and tremendous persistence under pressure, the ‘Bromley Team’ just failed to take a podium position.

In his summing up, the chairman of the decision making committee commented that the Southern Area final was of higher quality than any of the other regional finals. As no national final was planned, this could perhaps be considered as the Challenge of Challenges.

Owen and Daniel demonstrated that they could form an effective team with peers that were unknown to them before the event and could plan and deliver tasks that were completely new to them. These skills auger well for their future time at Charles Darwin School and for whatever careers they chose to pursue. They were first class representatives of which the school can be proud.

Dr Piercy