Mensa Foundation for Gifted Children supports the UK robotics champions at the Robocup World Finals
For five successive years, Prenton High School for Girls has represented the UK with distinction on the world stage at the Robocup Robotics World Finals. The school serves an impoverished community in the former shipbuilding town of Birkenhead. For five successive years, the gifted and talented students of this Wirral all-girls comprehensive school have been the best robotics team in the UK, and the best girls’ team in the world. No other school anywhere, in the UK or abroad, can match this record.
In previous years, the girls have triumphed in the UK National Finals, then travelled to the Robotics World Finals in the USA, China, Austria and Singapore. In 2011, the Mensa Foundation for Gifted Children was pleased to support the school in advancing this unique success story into a fifth successive year, as UK champions again at the World Finals in Istanbul, Turkey.
Acknowledging the foundation’s endorsement, John O’Neil, the school’s robotics expert and principal Physics teacher said:
“We are immensely grateful to the Mensa Foundation for Gifted Children for your great generosity in funding our expedition to Istanbul. We simply could not have done it without you”.
Some people make grand promises about the wonderful things they are going to do in the future. We just get on with things quietly, and let our results speak for themselves. As a result of our sustained robotics achievements on the world stage, we have now forged technical links with world-class robotics experts at Imperial College London and at the University of Oxford. We are now embarked on a two-year rolling campaign to represent the UK at Mexico City 2012 and Osaka Japan in 2013.
Here at Prenton, we are at the grass roots, educating the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, empowering them to contribute to the high-value-added manufacturing economy of the twenty-first century. We have developed an integrated strategy to best serve not only our girls but also the wider community in which we reside, by applying our expertise in IT and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). This includes outreach, using our robots and our planetarium (we are the only state school in the UK to have raised the funds to buy our very own planetarium), to a large cluster of primary schools, to encourage interest in Science in all its applications. We are raising the profile of robotics and indeed science in general among youngsters, and in so doing we are training future winners. We take many girls from deprived areas, raise their aspirations, and equip them to win in competitive activity at the sharp end of rigorous science.
Your support has been fundamental to our ongoing efforts. To all the trustees of the Mensa Foundation for Gifted Children, we extend our profound thanks.”
So what do the robots do ? For the Search & Rescue category (in which the school are five-year veterans) and for the Robot Football category (which the school entered for the first time in 2010), the girls design and build a vehicle, including a sensor array and a propulsion and traction system, then program it to operate entirely independently, in a challenging environment, in competition with others. These are not remote-control machines – once programmed, they function with total autonomy.
Programming is in C++. Amazingly, this very design, construction and programming – undertaken with energy, skill and flair by these remarkable 13 and 14 year old schoolgirls – is a core component of second-year undergraduate courses in Engineering at world-class universities such as Oxford and Imperial !
Beyond these singular accomplishments, the Prenton girls repeatedly displayed an astonishing ability to improvise creative solutions in real time as the world finals progressed. Their football robots were sustaining damage from full-contact exposure to various opponents. So Prenton used chicken-mesh to fashion a protective exo-skeleton ! It worked. As the tournament progressed, further protection was desirable, so the girls used the timber and natural rubber ‘cushion’ from a former snooker table to create a fender of reactive armour of which the Chobham military research agency would have been proud ! There were results to be proud of, too. The UK champions vanquished the Australia football robots, 20 goals to 7. And our team scored all the goals !
The Foundation congratulates the Prenton girls on their extraordinary accomplishments, and we wish them well as they embark on their campaign to again become national champions and represent the UK, in Mexico City 2012 and Osaka Japan in 2013.
For more details, please see http://www.prentonhighschool.co.uk/roboticsourschool.html
Shipston High School
This is another school that we have supported this year, who’s pupils have designed and manufactured the petrol driven, radio controlled car shown in the poster below. More to follow shortly.