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Burnaby students punch ticket to VEX Robotics world championships

The Burnaby school district's mechatronics and robotics program at Alpha Secondary School has qualified a team for the VEX Robotics world championships for two years in a row.

In just its second year after a lengthy hiatus, a Burnaby school district robotics club is sending its second team to the world championships this spring.

Based out of Alpha Secondary School, the district's mechatronics and robotics program began participating in VEX Robotics competitions again last year after a two-year pause.

After a rocky start, one of its robots “came out of nowhere” and qualified for the VEX Robotics world championships in Texas last spring, according to coach and technology teacher James Zhuang,

Based on this year’s results, however, that was no fluke.

The club, dubbed The Swarm, has once again qualified a robot for the worlds after a successful tournament season.

The Swarm started the season with two senior teams, who started working on their robots in September, and six rookie teams, who got to work in October.

Every  spring, after the VEX world championships, organizers announce a new skill-testing game, and students around the world spend the whole year designing, building and perfecting machines to play the game better than their opponents.

Teams continue to modify and improve their robots all season.

The Swarm’s robots competed in a total of eight tournaments and two skills-only competitions, according to Zhuang.

Three of them qualified for the provincial championships at the Langley Events Centre on Sunday (March 5).

One of the robots, 502W, (designed by Grade 10 students Steven Yuan, Adam Chan, Ethan Louie, Wellington Chan, Aaron Lew and Aiden Tam) made it to the semifinals, earned an Amaze award, placed second in skills, and qualified for the worlds in Dallas, Texas at the end of April.

“Their skill score is ranked 26th in the world out of over 5,000 teams and 50 countries,” Zhuang said. “It is an outstanding achievement in such a short time.”

Another Swarm robot, 502X, (designed by Grade 12 students Scott Favaro and Luke McQuillen and Grade 11 student David Dorland) earned a judge’s award but didn't advance.

Making their first appearance at a provincial championship were Grade 9 students Lucas Lu, Adam Vocadlo, Daniel Dorland and Arek Hong who designed robot 502V.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor