2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the Robotics program at Barker College – and what a start to the year it has been for the team.

17 matches. 17 wins. All in three days!

Barker’s Redbacks returned victorious from Vancouver, Canada, in early March, after taking out the Canadian Pacific Regional competition. This competition had not even been on the Redback’s radar for 2023, but following the devastating earthquake in Turkey, where they had planned to compete in the European FRC, the Redbacks quickly pivoted and headed for Vancouver.

As the only Australian team in the competition, the Redbacks competed against 38 teams from Asia Pacific, Canada and North America, including several powerhouses from Taipai, Hawaii and NASA.
Director of Barker’s Robotics Program, Jeser Mross Becker, said this was a very important and competitive event for the team.

“We have previously competed against these teams, but this was the first opportunity to compete against all these teams in the same competition,” Jeser explained. “It also marked the opening of the world season events for FIRST robotics.”

Jeser attributes much of the team’s success at this competition to Barker’s new dedicated Robotics Centre.

“The students have been able to prepare and practice on a full competition field. This has contributed enormously to their match preparation and planning. Also, all the work that our mentors are doing with the students in the early years of Barker’s Robotics program, ensures that they are better prepared for these competitions in the senior years.”

This year there are 60 students from Years 9 – 12 on the Senior team and 700 students from Years 1 – 12 involved in Robotics at Barker, as well as 120 Barker teams across the various divisions.

“It is definitely one of the biggest Robotics programs anywhere in the world at the moment,” Jeser said.

Year 11 student, Corinne Zhou, who is the team’s programmer, said the Canadian Pacific Regional, was a thrilling start to the season.

Hard Work Pays Off

“Watching three months of hard work pay off was unforgettable. Getting up at 4am, scouting other robots and cheering together as a team, will be a memory I will never forget,” Corinne said.

“As a programmer, watching the autonomous successfully scoring every single time was rewarding beyond comparison. This only inspired all of us more to work harder and to be even more prepared for the Southern Cross Regional.”

Corinne explained that a large challenge during the competition was the pressure of having to adapt remotely, scouting and fixing last minute programming issues during the early hours of the morning.

However, the biggest challenge was most definitely the time crunch in the last couple days in the leadup to the competition.

“We had to ensure all the parts were completely perfect and the code on the final robot was tuned and running smoothly. The autonomous, was a key factor in helping us score main points within the competition, working reliably despite being coded the day before sending the robot off to Canada.”

There was little to no downtime for the team after they returned from Vancouver, turning their attention and efforts to the FIRST Robotics Southern Cross Regional competition in Wollongong on March 10 – 12, where the team were once again successful. In addition to be awarded the FRC Southern Cross Champions, the Barker Redbacks were also awarded the General Motors Design Award.

Team member, Ryan Ng, attributes their success to “having a great team culture that fosters collaboration, creativity, and hard work. Our mentors are also incredibly supportive and provide us with the guidance and resources we need to succeed. In addition, we have a strong commitment to continuous improvement and are always looking for ways to innovate and stay ahead of the curve.”

“We are all extremely excited and reenergized to be preparing for championship with numerous ideas we are wanting to test out in mechanical and programming fields,” Corinne added.

“As a programmer, I am looking forward to developing more autonomous routines and improving vision and speed during competition with the limelight 3. We are already in the works of rebuilding and enhancing all areas of the robot to prepare for the fierce competition in champs at Houston, Texas in April.”

A Series of Firsts – Dhupuma Barker students to travel to World Championships in Dallas

It is not just the teams at Barker’s Hornsby campus that are enjoying success. Barker Robotics teams from the three Indigenous campuses in Dhupuma, Ngarralingayil and Darkinjung participated in the Australian National Championships in December 2022 at Sydney Olympic Park. The teams competed with the best in Australia! Our students enjoyed alliances with students from other schools to compete with their skilfully built robots.

Excitingly, the Dhupuma Barker team, Djirikitj Firebirds, officially qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championships 2023. They will be heading to Dallas, Texas later in April to take on the world, representing their school, community, and country.

The Djirikitj Firebirds are the:

  • 1st Yolngu team to enter a Robotics competition
  • 1st Northern Territory team to compete Nationally
  • 1st Northern Territory team to qualify for the World Championships

Cyrus, Richard, Sean, Justin, Andrew, Whitney, Jasmine, and Mikayla competed against 38 other groups to build and direct a robot through a series of challenges.

Head of Barker College, Phillip Heath, said the team had a joyous and positive experience throughout the competition.

“They had the most marvellous week exceeding our highest hopes, and our hopes were high,” he said.

Mr Heath said the competition was ranked against two criteria and he was incredibly proud of the team’s results.

The first category focused on the skill used to design and build the robots, and the Djirikitj Firebirds topped Australia in their elementary stage division.

The second category focused on matches against other teams’ robots.

The Dhupuma Barker School students started the two-day competition off in 10th place, escalated to sixth place, and completed the weekend’s events in fourth place.

“The heart-stoppingly wonderful result was that they qualified for the international championships in Dallas, Texas,” Mr Heath said.