Catalan students win US robotics prize for remote control wheelchair
High school team from Girona awarded in international competition
A team of four Catalan high school students have won a prize in an international robotics competition in the United States for designing a wheelchair that can be remotely controlled through a bracelet that allows the user to open doors, pay bills, contact relatives in case of need, and even lift the user up.
Núria Brusi, Marc Falgueras, Àngel Roncero, and Laia Travé are between 12 and 13 years old and live in Girona, in the north of Catalonia. Having won a contest at the Spanish level, they were selected to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, to participate in the VEX Robotics Competition along with 1,600 teams from around the world.
Participants were presented with an engineering challenge in the form of a game: taking rings from tubes, from one side of a field to another. Each year, the competition expects students to build innovative robots from scratch, with the guidance of their teachers and mentors.
“Our project consists on a wheelchair which can lift the person up and therefore make their life easier”
Laia Travé · Student
The team—dubbing themselves ‘Wildcats’—worked on the project for a year during an extracurricular course out on by Innova’t Educació, a Catalan organization offering technology-based educational activities.
Although the Wildcats did not make it to the finals in the ability contest, their creativity was nevertheless recognized. They received the ‘Inspire Award’ for designing a wheelchair that could foster the users’ autonomy.
“Our project consists on a wheelchair which can lift the person up and therefore make their life easier,” said Travé. “If you need to take medicine it will let you know when you need to do it,” said Roncero, adding that the goal of the project was for “someone who has a disability to not depend on other people’s help and therefore have more autonomy.”
Over 1,700 competitions worldwide
The VEX Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, is—according to its website—the largest and fastest growing middle school and high school robotics program globally, with more than 20,000 teams from 50 countries participating in over 1,700 competitions worldwide.
Teaching robotics in Girona
Innova’t Educació offers robotics courses to some thousand students in the region of Girona. “Robotics allow us to practice maths and logical thinking, but the more human side is also very important,” said Dani Martín, the organization’s director. “Young people foster their own entrepreneurship, create solutions for challenges presented to them, and, moreover, work in teams.”
Martín adds that “the task of the robotics coach is to be a guide: we can’t interfere with the robot, so what we do is indicate to them that they’re on the right path, motivate them, and when they get stuck, offer them different options so they can find a solution.”