https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2017/08/14/supporting-the-next-generation-of-infocus-women-in-innovation/

Supporting the next generation of ‘infocus’ women in innovation

We are the WGCmicrobots! – Emily and Beth. We are both 9 years old from Welwyn Garden City and took the competitive robotics world by storm last season by being the youngest competitors in the UK.

We took  part in the ‘Vex IQ challenge’ where we had to design and build a robot that could collect, sort and stack orange and blue ‘hexballs’ in various scoring zones before navigating and balancing on a see-saw bridge within a 1 minute time limit.

We competed in several regional tournaments against secondary school age children, some of which were 5 years older.

We have won several regional trophies for driver skill, programming ability, design process and innovative engineering and secured a place at the UK Vex Robotics National finals where we competed against the best 39 teams in the UK for the title of ‘VEX IQ National Champions’!

It doesn’t stop there. At the national finals we impressed the judges so much in all of the award categories that we secured a place at the Vex Robotics World Championships in the USA! We were the youngest team in the UK to achieve the coveted place.

Microbots at Vex Robotics World Championships in the USA
Here we are at the Vex Robotics World Championships in the USA

With success far beyond what we could have dreamt of at the beginning of the year, this lead to a new problem…how do we get enough money together in a month in order to get over to the USA to compete? That’s where Innovate UK came in! They agreed to sponsor our trip as part of their ‘infocus’ campaign, one of whose aims is to encourage the next generation of ‘women in innovation’.

Microbots at Vex Robotics World Championships in the USA, part of UK delegation
‘Parade of Nations’ at the beginning of the Vex Robotics World Championships in the USA. The competitors from each country proudly fly their flag while walking through the competition hall – much like the Olympics.

Spreading the word about robotics

We are delighted to say that since coming back from the World Championships in the USA, we have managed to spread the word about competitive robotics in our local area.

We are in the process of converting to a charity so that we can be recognised as an official club. We managed to gain some extra funds and have introduced another 4 teams to the club, so now we have 5 (all primary school age).

All of the children come from the local area and we run the sessions on Sundays with the help of our team coaches – Andrew Duffey and Michelle Thomas– completely free of charge (part of the ethos of the club is to encourage all children, not just those who can afford it, to take part in what can be a costly hobby).

Microbots group, discussing strategy
5 teams of roboteers discussing the new game challenge at one of our build sessions

These are the 5 teams of roboteers discussing the new game challenge at one of our build sessions. We are trying to develop a strategy for scoring the most points within the 1 minute time frame allowed in the game.

Each build session is about 4 hours so the children get a good chunk of time to get stuck in!

Competing from a young age

All of the teams, including Beth and I, have started designing our robots for the new challenge 'Vex IQ Ringmaster'.

We will take part in our first regional robotics competition in October, competing against secondary school age children for a place at the National Finals later in the season.

Our own regional robotics competition!

On Sunday November 26th, we will be hosting our very own regional competition and will invite teams from all over to compete for a place at the National finals. We are really excited about this because we have managed to secure the Hertfordshire Sports Village as the venue which is huge (most clubs use school halls as they are school based teams – but we are not attached to a school and have had to find an alternative venue).

The most exciting part about this is that this will be, by far, the biggest regional competition in the UK this season with 48 teams taking part (the next biggest is 32 teams). It should create an unforgettable buzz for young competitors and spectators alike.

Visiting Innovate UK

We’re also really looking forward to visiting Innovate UK on 15th August, and we can’t wait to meet so many innovation leaders.

Follow us on Twitter: @WGCmicrobots

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