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29 September 2011
Five kids, three robots and a mum take on Australasia
Five Kiwi schoolchildren battled the odds to be the first to travel to Hobart, Tasmania and represent New Zealand in the RoboCup Junior Australian championships held earlier this week.
After winning gold in the national RoboCup Junior competition held in Wellington this month, the two Wanganui Intermediate and three Wanganui High School students became eligible to enter the Australian competition. But they almost didn’t make it.
Team mentor and mum of three of the national gold medallists – Heidi, Richard and David Mosen – Amanda Gough said they had only two and a half weeks to come up with around $8000 in travel costs.
“We were so proud when all three of our children won gold medals in the national competition, that we were determined they didn’t miss out on the rare opportunity to represent New Zealand and to showcase their skills on an international level. So we got to work raising the funds.”
They rallied a group of friends and family to help them do a ‘scrap metal drive’. “We basically drove around Wanganui and knocked on people’s doors asking if they could donate their scrap metal to our cause,” says Amanda.
“And we were overwhelmed by the response. One man let us take his corrugated iron fence, which we spent around six hours pulling up. Another gave us his wrought iron bath!
“We then took the metal to the local dealers and it fetched around $400 in cash, which we used to buy a car with a blown out motor. My husband David, who’s a mechanic, replaced the motor and fixed up the car. We had to borrow around $3000 and we’re going to pay this back by selling the car.
“All the parents put in what funds they could and we’re really grateful for the assistance we received from Wanganui District Council, the two schools, and local businesses and individuals after we ran a raffle and appealed for help to the community.”
We had to take the long route to Tasmania to keep down the costs, says Amanda. “We flew from Wellington to Melbourne, then got the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, took the bus to Hobart, and then spent three nights in a scout camp. And we did the same on the way back”.
And all the hard work paid off. The Wanganui High School students (Christie Sage, and Heidi and Richard Mosen) placed fourth in their Senior Dance category, and Wanganui Intermediate School students (Ben Foster and David Mosen) were placed ninth in Junior Rescue, out of a total of 47 teams.
“They did so well,” says Amanda, “especially given the big differences in the rules and judging between the Australian and New Zealand competitions. The kids had to do some really quick thinking and make last-minute changes to their robots to meet the Australian rules.
“It’s been an amazing experience for the kids – they’ve learnt a heck of a lot and got to meet lots of other like-minded and innovative youngsters from all around Australasia.
“We’re in a position now to pass on our knowledge to other children who make it to the Australian champs. These kids really are pioneers.”