Extra hours pay off for Hai Sing robotics team

The team from Hai Sing Catholic School, comprising (from left) Sam Andrew Sy, Shannon Chua and Ernest Tan Jun Yi, rebuilt their robot Atom-U at least 10 times in preparation for the VEX Robotics World Championship, in which they triumphed in the midd
The team from Hai Sing Catholic School, comprising (from left) Sam Andrew Sy, Shannon Chua and Ernest Tan Jun Yi, rebuilt their robot Atom-U at least 10 times in preparation for the VEX Robotics World Championship, in which they triumphed in the middle school category.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Two weeks before three Hai Sing Catholic School students were due to compete in a world robotics contest, their robot stopped moving during a routine stress test.

To rebuild Atom-U, they put in extra hours after school every day, even staying some nights in school.

The team's leader, Secondary 4 student Shannon Chua, 15, said: "It was stressful. We had to change a lot of things, even at the last minute. There were many times when we felt like giving up."

But the team, which included Sam Andrew Sy, 14, and Ernest Tan Jun Yi, 15, overcame the setback and triumphed in the middle school category at the VEX Robotics World Championship in Kentucky, United States, last month. The team also snagged another top honour, the Robot Skills award.

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The team was one of six from the school's robotics club to enter the contest. This is the fourth time that the school in Pasir Ris has snagged top honours in the competition.

Last month's contest saw about 160 teams, including powerhouses from China, New Zealand and the US, taking part.

Besides designing and building the robots from scratch, the teams from Hai Sing had to put their creations through functional and stress tests. If the robots failed, it was back to the drawing board.

TEST OF PERSEVERANCE

It was stressful. We had to change a lot of things, even at the last minute. There were many times when we felt like giving up.

SHANNON CHUA, the team leader, on the team's preparations for the competition.

MORE THAN JUST SKILLS

Students have to put in their fair share of hard work and have the desire to win.

MR TEO YEE MING, Hai Sing's subject head for Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), on the students' win.

For 15 months, the students worked on their robots almost daily, even staying overnight in school on several occasions.

Ernest, a Sec 4 student, said his team dismantled and rebuilt their robot at least 10 times in those 15 months. "It was a lot of hard work. We also had to juggle training (for the contest) and studies."

Sam, a Sec 2 student, said: "I've always wanted to do engineering and (building the robot) gave me a chance to learn more."

The team's victory caught the attention of Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, who congratulated the students on Facebook. He also noted that the school's Applied Learning Programme in Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has allowed students to "apply their classroom knowledge and fuel their passion for robotics".

Mr Teo Yee Ming, Hai Sing's subject head for Stem, said: "Students have to put in their fair share of hard work and have the desire to win."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Extra hours pay off for Hai Sing robotics team'. Print Edition | Subscribe