Back in November a team of Year 9s entered a STEM robot competition in Norwich. They were named Regional winners and as well as receiving a special trophy, they were invited to take part in the National competition in Aberdeen. The team comprised of Keira-Mai, Prisha, Connor, Dylan, Lewis and Maddison, alongside Mrs Simms and Mr Nicholson from the Science Department.

Maddie, who was part of the team, tells us about the adventure:

On the morning of Thursday 5th March 2020, six Year 9s set off for Scotland with Mrs Simms and Mr Nicholson to compete in the final of Subsea UK’s national STEM competition, held at P&J Live, Aberdeen. The team (Connor, Dylan, Lewis, Keira, Prisha and Maddie) had advanced to this stage in the competition after previously coming away victorious from the regionals (held at the Open Academy, Norwich) back in November last year.

To kick off the trip, they flew from Norwich Airport in what seemed to be one of the smallest planes ever, before landing at Aberdeen Airport by noon. They then had a few hours to spare, which were spent eating lunch and getting checked into hotel rooms – which were lovely! At 2:30pm, the group joined two other schools on a trip to Fugro, where they got to learn about the industry of engineering, how the company worked and what they specialised in. They even had the opportunity to control an ROV themselves! The whole trip was ever so interesting and overall a very enjoyable afternoon for all. Connor said, “The trip to Fugro was an interesting experience that allowed me a deeper insight into the front lines of combating pollution and risks of manual work in the ocean. During our visit, we were allowed to take part in little activities including the operation of a manipulation device (claw). This experience was fun, unique and gave us lots of inspiration for our upcoming challenge of designing and crafting of our own ROV.”

Once they’d returned to the hotel, Aloft, they all went their separate ways, getting changed into some comfortable clothes and relaxing for a while. At around 6pm, they reunited and ordered some Domino’s for dinner, opting a large pepperoni pizza, a large meat feast pizza, garlic bread and some wedges – tasty!!! And to complete the day, they shared some games of pool downstairs (and some waffles!) before turning in for the night.

This takes us to Friday: competition day. The six all arose nervously for the big day ahead, but with the reassurance of their months and months of planning, still enjoyed some breakfast before leaving. All walked to the venue, which was just around the corner, and gathered in a conference room with the other 5 competing schools (from Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and Inverness) as well as the event judges, sponsors and hosts. The team listened intently to the brief, finalizing their task before beginning at roughly 8:30am. Maddie says, “We were all so nervous, yet so ready to begin. Our preparation was immense, so a skim over Connor and Dylan’s generous, high-quality research was all it took to get us going and into our element.”

The task was to design, build and market an ROV of their own, and from a company of their creation. The Northgate team came up with ‘ROVolutionary’, and had also already predetermined their roles: Connor as project manager, Dylan as head engineer, Lewis and Keira as programmers and Prisha and Maddie as marketers. Projects would all be judged thoroughly on build, design, functionality, teamwork, marketing, and more.

By breaktime at 10:30am, Northgate had built and named their robot, ‘Clawd’. Everybody went and picked up a muffin to suffice themselves, then at 11 o’clock were given permission to resume their work. It was now all down to programming and creating an effective pitch and TV advert.

Prisha, Maddie and Dylan worked to create a catchy and informative speech for their pitch, with technical explanations, sale tactics, and nice slogans.

After lunch (where the catering team very kindly provided everybody with exquisite beef sandwiches and salad), the marketers continued to endeavour with iMovie to create the advertisement, shooting clips and photos of Clawd in action as the rest of the team worked on programming him. They also included a clip of fellow team member Lewis, who gave an inspirational voiceover towards the end of the short production as well.

Finally, the team filmed Clawd performing his impressive, key functions and submitted them to the judging panel.

With a cake in hand to calm their nerves, everybody came together to begin their pitches. Northgate were the 4th to present, and all took the stage with as much confidence as they could muster. They all delivered their lines clearly and with much enthusiasm, weighing out the entertainment and technicality of their pitch evenly. As they left the spotlight, they listened to their advertisement play on the big screen.

Once the rest of the competing schools had completed their presentations (which were all done to a very high level) it was time for judging. The team sat nervously as they awaited the results, and in no time they had arrived. Northgate’s team received utmost support and encouragement from Mrs Simms and Mr Nicholson, and had growing confidence in themselves. It only grew bigger when, to their surprised, they were announced the WINNERS of this year’s national competition.

In shock, the team rose from their seats to collect their trophy and pose for many photos. Members of the press had even attended to receive their names and some quotes! The teachers were very proud, with Mrs Simms saying, “Our pupils were SUPERB!”

Once the buzz of the moment had faded away, the group left for the airport and flew home, still filled with euphoria. The whole trip was an incredible, eye-opening experience, and winning was the cherry on top! Everyone is very proud of our Northgate team, and they are looking forward to what awaits them in the future.

Mrs Simms, tells us all about the experience from her point of view:

‘Having successfully navigated our way through Norwich airport, it was time to embark on our two day adventure. The thrill and excitement of take-off was mirrored in our excitement of the opportunity.

We arrived in Aberdeen, we were taken on a company tour of Fugro. They specialise in underwater robots, which they control from their headquarters in Aberdeen. The remote operated vehicles (ROVs) can film equipment for surveillance or perform maintenance jobs under the water. We got to try our skills at operating a small ROV and picking up objects using a grab hand. This was very tricky and we definitely needed more time to practice.

The second day was challenge day, surrounded by sponsors and inspirational equipment including AR which was awesome! The pupils had to program a robot to perform several tasks, had to produce marketing material for their company and a TV advert featuring their robot. They were judged throughout the day on their teamwork, communication, completion of the tasks and then the big one – presenting their marketing pitch and advert to a room full of industry experts.

It was a tough competition, but WE WON – due mainly to the amazing teamwork and preparation the team did.

I want to thank Subsea UK for the amazing opportunity they gave us over the two days. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.’

You can read the official Subsea article here