The first Dell VEX Primary School Regional Competition of 2018 took place yesterday in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). The competition is run by Dell, in collaboration with CIT who have been involved with the programme since Dell brought it to Ireland six years ago.
The firstCI competition for secondary schools took place in 2012 featuring 10 teams before expanding in 2014 with the creation of the VEX IQ Primary School competition with 19 primary school teams competing that year. Over recent years, the competition has grown from strength to strength. 98 teams are involved in this year’s contest; 67 from primary schools and 31 from secondary schools. In total, 1,800 students from seven counties will participate over five days of events in the final stages of the competition.
The Dell VEX Robotics Challenge calls on students at primary and secondary school level to work in teams to design, build and program a robot. In September schools are provided with an easy to follow curriculum to help the schools run the preparation stages independently with the support of Dell employees who have volunteered their time to visit participating schools and provide guidance to students and teachers. Preparation with students has been taking place since September with scrimmages taking place in schools during November to prepare students for the competition phases.
At the semi-final events, primary schools will compete against each other, present their projects to the judges and compete in a teamwork challenge with the finalists announced at the end of the day. The finals of the Primary School competition is taking place on March 1st in Cork Institute of Technology with the overall winners getting a spot in the VEX World Competition in Kentucky,
Bob Savage, Managing Director and Vice President EMEA, Dell Centre of Excellence said: “As a company we’re passionate about showcasing the exciting side of STEM subjects and inspiring students to become interested in science, technology, engineering and maths. Ultimately, we hope programmes like Dell VEX Robotics will have an impact on the choices students make when preparing for their Leaving Cert and when selecting courses for third level education. With Ireland’s tech sector continuing to thrive and technologies such as AI, VR and AR expected to be a core part of the future of work – regardless of the job or profession a student pursues, gaining these computational and engineering skills while still at school will be invaluable to them for the future.”
Dónal Ó Murchú, Principal, GaelScoil Thomais Daibhis, Mallow said: “The Dell VEX Robotics Programme is changing mindsets and addressing real issues with a problem-solving attitude; it focuses and inspires our young pupils to become the new innovators of their future. The fact that the pupils were more knowledgeable about some aspects of the robotics than their teachers meant that in our school the learning was pupil–led rather than what one might ordinarily expect.”
There are several aspects that differentiate the VEX Robotics Competition which is run by Dell from other school based projects. The competition focuses on engaging children from a young agewith students as young as 9 and 10 years old designing robots. Typically, it involves full classes at primary level, meaning it engages all students and not just those who might already be tech-oriented. This is key to building that pipeline of talent that the technology industry needs to thrive. It also provides a wealth of opportunities to get involved within the community, from volunteers who provide mentoring sessions at their local school, to those who volunteer at an event as a referee, judge, inspector or more.
The Dell VEX Robotics Challenge is delivered by Dell with the support of CIT. Throughout the last year, strategic partnerships have been built with various educational institutions. Mary Immaculate College in Limerick delivered a module on VEX Robotics for student teachers, held a summer course for school teachers and sponsored a number of teams. The Education Support Centres in Cork and Limerick both hosted VEX Robotics support sessions for teachers.