Aiglon’s Debut at Global Robotics Championship Signals New Era in STEM Education

1 May, 2024

“The standout team from Switzerland, Aiglon College…” this is the statement announced when a group of Aiglonians recently competed in the final 16 of VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas. 

It was the first time that students from the school participated in this annual event. This championship brings together over 800 of the top VEX IQ Robotics Competition, VEX Robotics Competition, and VEX U teams from around the globe to celebrate their accomplishments and participate in the 2023-2024 games to be crowned champions.

The team of eighth students was gender-balanced, representing Aiglon ranged from Year 8 to Year 10, and they were accompanied by staff members, Mr Jason Machin (Computer Science Teacher,) Mr Darren Wise (Director of IT) and Ms Isla Campbell (Le Cerf Assistant Houseparent).  Aiglon’s robot is called 9231A. 

Teaching innovation starts with a hands-on, experiential approach. “It’s about learning something new and then getting the chance to use that information to create something cool,” Mr Jason Machin (Computer Science Teacher) explains. “Innovation in Computer Science is fundamentally about problem-solving.”

There are various student-led activities at the school: web development, 3D design and engineering, robotics engineering, and the coding club. Students are free to propose new activities, and if it sounds like a new idea, Mr Machin asks them to put together a quasi-curriculum, which they then lead; he is just there to guide them.

“The incredible part about VEX was being immersed in a dynamic mix of cultures, languages, and perspectives, all united in the quest for the 2024 world championship in the over/under challenge” stated Alex (Year 10). “Despite this common goal, each participant brought their own unique strategy and perspective shaped by their team dynamics and personal experience. It’s what makes VEX so remarkable – the freedom for everyone to tackle the challenge in their own distinct way.”

Enhancing their skills in recent months enabled the group of eight to participate in the VEX Robotics Competition in Basel, Switzerland, on 1 March 2024 – which they won. The team made the school proud by winning the Swiss championship, earning the chance to represent Switzerland at this global championship in Texas, USA. Globally, 13,700 Vex teams competed in VEX tournaments this year; therefore, reaching the World Championship is a significant achievement.

“VEX is an amazing sport, not only can you compete against teams from all over the world, you can also improve areas of interest and study, like physics, maths and computer science. It is also incredibly fun!” stated Albert (Year 10).

VEX Robotics enables teams of students to design, build, code and control a remote-controlled robotic device. This device has so many possibilities and students can design and code them to lift, throw, gather and move. In a VEX competition, students form an alliance with another team and compete against other robots to shoot and gather triballs. Scoring points for a range of skills. Similarities can be drawn to Formula 1, as this is a team sport, where there is a driver and behind them is a support team of engineers, programmers, and a ‘pit crew’, ready to make hot changes between rounds.  

Opportunities for Aiglon students to experience building, making and robotics have expanded this year. Mr Jason Machin, a Computer Science Teacher, has not only recently established VEX as an activity but has also established a range of build opportunities for students, including building vehicles, boats, ‘Wallees’ and even ‘BB8s’. 

The Aiglon team competing in Texas was one of the youngest teams in the competition. Unfortunately, they did not advance from the final 16, as they lost in the knockout game to the fourth-seeded team. Nevertheless, their participation in the VEX Robotics World Championships was not just about winning the competition. Their teamwork, dedication and willingness to give freely so many hours (including weekends) to build, refine, code and practise with their robots are highly commended.  

The new VEX challenge for 2024-25 “High Stakes’ was unveiled at the closing ceremony, and the Aiglon VEX team has already started to explore this new challenge.

A dedicated teacher of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics will join the Aiglon teaching staff in August 2024. This additional expertise will enable the school to go even further in the world of robotics. 

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