Young minds engineer the future as annual Robotics Comp turns 20

25 July 2023
Primary students smiling as they display their robotic creations
Students from Rockhampton Grammar School engineered their robots to perform choreography

Where technological skills are developed and some of the brightest minds in Queensland come together to compete, the annual CQ Robotics Competition was held last week at CQUniversity in Rockhampton. 

Now in its twentieth year, the competition saw over 200 students in attendance to compete in the event, developing skills integral to technological careers for the future.

Spanning from Bundaberg to Mackay and Central West Queensland, students travelled great distances to be part of the competition held at CQUniversity’s North Rockhampton campus, coordinated by Chair Organiser and Senior Research Technologies Officer Jason Bell who has been involved with the competition since its inception in 2003.

“Technology has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and there weren’t many competitions around like this when we first started, but as technology advances, we’re seeing more of these events where students are able to experiment with a greater level of tech such as drone technology,” Mr Bell said.

Featuring three judged categories that included Dance, Soccer and Rescue Missions, the competition allowed students to code robots to perform a range of mechanics and implemented the type of advancements that could be translated to real-life scenarios.

School students starting a match of robotic soccer on a green field mat
Students engineered their robots for a soccer match using detective sensors

“The skills that the children are learning here are vital for the kinds of careers we’ll need in the future,” Mr Bell said. 

“Right now, we’re seeing autonomous cars being developed with sensors to detect objects and make decisions and that’s the same type of thing we’re working with here.

“For example, the Rescue Mission category requires students to code their robot completely autonomously without remote controls to navigate track as part of a simulated scenario to rescue victims from a chemical spill.”

Mr Bell said a large portion of students opted to use Lego robots, breaking the perception that Lego is “just a toy”, where improvements in the technology has seen the implementation of sensors to detect objects, colour senses to detect paths and in-built compasses for direction.

“The students do see some challenges as they compete where their coding may need additional work, or they encounter extra obstacles they’ll need their robot to navigate, but they learn more on competition day than they learn in all the months leading up to it as they overcome their challenges, collaborate with other teams and have those light bulb moments.”

Mr Bell said that he is looking forward to future iterations of the competition in the years to come and is excited to continue to develop, adapt and expand the breadth of the competition as technology advances.


The Annual CQ Junior Robotics Competition returns for its 20th year as school students from Bundaberg to Mackay and Central West Queensland gathered at CQUniversity Rockhampton to put their futuristic machines to the test across Dance, Soccer and Rescue Mission categories


So today we have a competition event that ranges from both primary and secondary students competing using robots and so this is their 20th year that we've been running this event and we have kids from Longreach, Moura, Biloela and Bundaberg and Rockhampton regions. There's a whole wide variety of skills there's your general your I.T and your engineering skills but there's also other sort of skills like teamwork and also some of them actually build robots to participate in dance. And so in the dance they do a choreography and the students will build props and dance with the robots and those sort of things so there's you know you do have your traditional it and Engineering skills but there's a lot more than just that.


So these skills in these careers are vital like we're seeing you know autonomous cars being developed now, there's you know some of the large companies and that building driverless cars and they and basically they're building cars with sensors and that sort of stuff to detect objects and to actually make decisions it's the same thing here that we have. So we have the three categories that we're performing so that we have the dance where they build the robots and dance but we also have a rescue category where it's an automated so there is no remote control or anything they press a button it must navigate a random track and go and do what we call a pretend um scenario where they rescue this victim from a chemical spill. And then with the soccer we have the Matildas playing in the World Cup at the moment so we have our robot soccer where again no controls or anything else they use sensors to detect the ball they use compasses to know which direction to go in and to robots actually competing and scoring some goals.


Most of the kids here will be using Lego robots they don't have to but you know a lot of people see the Lego robots as just as a toy but actually they can be used um you know for a variety of things and so you know these sensors for detecting the balls for color sensors to detect paths and that sort of stuff to never improve. We've been fortunate enough to actually have people compete from the CQ region at the state and National levels and we've actually been quite successful in that in the past. The biggest buzzI get from here is seeing the enthusiasm and excitement of the kids some of the kids here will have some issues and you know they won't be able to get over these bumps or go up the Seesaw or things like that they have to navigate but the kids will learn more today than in the months leading up and you'll see them overcome challenges and they'll see other teams and they'll collaborate with, that's a great idea and so it's for them the learning the light bulb moments and they go oh and so that's what really excites me.

We're coding robots to dance to music and like not the sensors that we program them to do in our dance and we do a dance with them you've got to try to make sure the robots don't run into each other and they go at that sort of at least sort of map like interact it takes a long time we've spent two and a half yeah two hours each afternoon on two at each week and um yeah quite a bit it's just fun. Yeah the other teams also have really good performances so it's always a close comp.

It does really help like you're resilience and like your persistence as well like there are so many times where you're like coding and you're like oh you think it's gonna work and then you try it and it doesn't work and it's like it is frustrating but you do like learn some good skills from it I think that's a really important skill just in general.