Right through DUKES WEEK 2013, we’re highlighting the awesome efforts of 5 Feature Participants.
Looking for a robot to shoot hoops, defend their ground and climb towers? 16 year old Lucy Thompson is a teenager with a very specific set of skills who can point you in the right direction.
Battle-worn and weary, there’s one last challenge to face. Up ahead looms a ten-foot steel framed pyramid. One false move and the heights of the pyramid will become a quick crash back to the ground with the crunch and clang of twisted metal. Deep breaths; gently does it…Have you ever seen Terminator 2? The scene where Arnie drops himself into molten lava doesn’t even come close to this. It’s not the Terminator, but it is a robot. It’s not Los Angeles, but Honolulu. And the person with her hands on the controls is 16 year old Duke of Ed Participant, Lucy Thompson.
“I first got involved in robotics through my school and now I’m a part of Team Melbourne #4529 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC),” explains Lucy, a student at Kilvington Grammar. “We are a combined team from 6 different schools promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Education.
The FRC is a real world engineering project allowing students to design, build, program and drive fully functional metal robots to play sport. Since being introduced to robotics at school, Lucy found herself a whole world away when competing at the US regional FRC with three other Melbourne teams in Honolulu in March 2013.
The passion, determination and gift Lucy has for robotics is clear. For the competition, the robot they designed and built from scratch was up against the best of the best.
“The game our robot was to compete was called Ultimate Ascent. Our robot had to be able to collect and shoot frisbees into various goals ranging in height, as well as climbing a 10ft steel framed pyramid safely, after being able to drive around and defend other robots. I was selected to drive the robot by the team as well as my mentor, which was amazing,” recalls Lucy.
“It was amazing competing in Hawaii and seeing what some of the older teams built. The support that the Australian teams had for one another was unbelievable too.”
The preparation, training and sheer hard work that the whole team put in to be able to mix it with the world is not for the faint hearted.
“The biggest challenge is coming up with an original design to meet the challenge brief, then racing against the clock after school, weekends and holidays to finish in time for shipping to the comp,” observes Lucy.
“A typical project is completed over the 10 week build season with your teammates. We had limited time juggling our homework, jobs, activities as well as time for family. It is a big commitment, but well worth it!”
The rewards of all their efforts far outweigh the challenges as far as Lucy’s concerned.
“I enjoy the mechanical aspect of the process, which involves the build of the actual robot. I also enjoy the electrical work, with all the wires and connections,” she reflects.
“A massive highlight for me is the teamwork and being involved in the whole process of seeing our little idea on a piece of paper through to driving it around in a competition.
“From doing this I have met the most amazing people! I have been offered potential jobs personally from people in the in engineering industry through the FRC, and worked along industry mentors. Doing this has not limited me to just the competitions; I have been to the Grand Prix among other events to promote STEM education with engineering companies.”
Lucy’s involvement in Team Melbourne FRC not has not only had a positive impact on herself and her teammates – they’re making an impact in the community as well.
“Members or our team mentor junior robotics teams in other competitions such as the FLL and RoboCup,” she explains.
“We have also done numerous presentations promoting STEM education and robotics. As a team we have been awarded the Inspiration Award twice for inspiring the community and teams all over Australia to participate in the FRC.
“My involvement in robotics makes me feel valued and a part of the team. We don’t have many girls in our team, but the boys are definitely there for me when I need them, and treat me as one of their close mates!”
While she’s not sure what 2014 competition will include, Lucy has no doubt that it will be even more challenging than this year – and she’s ready and waiting. In the meantime, she’s pretty sure she knows what her dream robotics project would be.
“My dream would be to build a robot that climbs to the top of the steel framed pyramid without falling; it’s amazing watching teams that can.”
She’s a realist too – “In general I need a robot to clean my room for me!”
And if she could encourage anyone to get up, get out and live the dream, what would she say?
“Don’t hesitate at all! You will have so much fun along the way. I can’t say how amazing these experiences have been for me, and if you think they won’t happen to you -they will! Put the effort in and you will definitely be rewarded!”