RoboRebels have a blast in Houston

From rural NSW to the robotics world stage, five students have taken on the best in Texas, as Kerrie O’Connor reports.

A group of six people standing around a table full of electrical and robotic equipment A group of six people standing around a table full of electrical and robotic equipment
Image: Revved up and ready to take on the world: Narooma High School’s RoboRebels at the 2023 FIRST championship in Houston.

Narooma High School is famous for its blue-ribbon cattle but now a robot has rocketed students to Houston, Texas, and the international STEM stage.

Five Narooma High students have just returned from the United States where they competed against 30,000 competitors and 600 schools as part of the world final of the youth robotics competition, 2023 FIRST Championship.

The Narooma High ‘RoboRebels’ made the finals after qualifying rounds against teams from Australia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Singapore and were supported by their community which pitched in to help fly them to the US final.

Speaking from Houston during the competition, Year 12 student Linc McLeod-Scott declared the experience “the chance of a lifetime”.

The Connected Communities school team competed against rivals with twice as many players, significantly more resources and, for the US teams, the edge of playing on home soil.

The RoboRebels and their robot, Noodles, held their own in two days of intense qualifying matches, with the support of executive principal Fiona Jackson and teachers Gayle Allison and Christina Potts.

“There was an indescribable buzz in the air,” the team wrote after the first day where they competed in five matches across 11 hours.

Another highlight for the team was receiving a good luck zoom call on day one from NSW Department of Education Acting Secretary Murat Dizdar.

The team said the intensity increased on the second day with defence suddenly a key element of the event.

“We are fortunate, as that is our strength,” the RoboRebels wrote. As the day unfolded the team secured a number of victories buoyed by messages from Australia.

In their third match the crowd took the team to heart “even joining in the ‘Aussie chant’.”

As part of the competition, teams form alliances. Despite their alliance winning out on the second day, the RoboRebels missed out on a finals berth.

“While we were not chosen to be in one of the eight alliances, out of a possible 77 teams, it was an incredible day,” they said.

“The intensity for the finals was out of this world: the strategies, the electricity in the stands, the entertainment, the emotions were unlike anything we have ever experienced.

“We are so thankful for this opportunity to compete alongside the best in the world and to learn from each other and to have developed new friendships.

“The competition is not about students making robots, but students creating the future and that was certainly on display all day.”

The students thanked their school, the Connected Communities directorate for its assistance, and their community for the support to get them to Houston.

Ms Jackson praised her students and teachers who have progressively built a “magnificent” robotics program at Narooma.

“It's really indescribable what these students and these two teachers have done, and the whole community getting involved is just the most amazing feeling,” Ms Jackson said.

The Narooma RoboRebels are Year 12 students Kye Potter, Matthew Brooks, Harrison McKee and Linc, and Year 10 student Harmony Cannon.

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