Posted on the 18th March 2019
Written by Mission Control

Elated Newcastle Academy team prevail at northern championships

Robot-savvy staffordshire students secure once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent the UK at global robotics tournament in the USA

Almost 600 students from across the North West gathered at the Concorde Conference Centre in Manchester last week (Friday 15 March) to compete in the inaugural FIRST® Tech Challenge UK Championships. Team Newbotics 101 from Newcastle Academy School were named FIRST® Tech Challenge UK Inspire Award winners and, with the support of JCB, will represent the UK at the FIRST® Championships held in Detroit, USA between 24 – 27 April 2019. The team joins 30,000 students competing head-to-head to be crowned global champions at the world’s largest student robotics competition.

FIRST® Tech Challenge is an expeditionary robotics programme for ages 12-18, seeking to build relationships between today’s professionals and tomorrow’s talent. Working in teams of up to 15, and supported by an industry mentor, young people design, build and programme a robot to compete in the annual championships. Team members assume individual and collaborative roles reflective of real-life careers – from software engineers and designers, to project managers and communications officers – all play a part in becoming competition-ready.

During the championship event in Manchester, teams competed against each other within alliances, using their robots to complete a series of tasks on a space-themed playing field. Teams were also required to present engineering notebooks, documenting their journey through the programme, to a panel of industry judges. In addition to the Inspire Award, seven further accolades celebrating a diverse range of technical and soft skills were awarded:

Judges Award – against all odds – Nebula from St Edward’s Academy
Control Award – Mastering Robot intelligence – Sustainable Danger from Aldersley High School
Motivate Award – Sparking others to embrace the culture of FIRST® – Rob-bot from Clayton Hall Academy
Design Award – Industrial design at its best – Trentham Terrors from Trentham Academy
Collins Aerospace Innovate Award – Bringing great ideas from concept to reality – Hot Wire from St John Fisher Catholic College
Connect Award – Connecting the dots between community, FIRST® and the diversity of the engineering world – End It from Endon High School
Think Award – Removing engineering obstacles through creative thinking – Team Beep from Birches High School
Amber, team leader from Newbotics 101, Newcastle Academy comments:

“We are all in complete and utter shock, we were ready to leave and then heard our names called as winners for the Inspire Award. It is so exciting to be heading to Detroit, we really can’t wait. We loved every second of working in a team, we all helped equally and we couldn’t have done it without all of us together.”

FIRST® Tech Challenge is backed by leading industries keen to address the burgeoning STEM skills crisis. Mentors have been supporting the teams throughout the programme – helping to ease the load for educators whilst forging important relationships between schools and industry. JCB support the programme providing mentors to teams across the region and volunteers to steward, judge and referee the Championships. Stuart Harper from JCB’s Global Education team says:

“This is the first year that FIRST® Tech Challenge is running in the UK, making it more incredible to see such creative, innovative, and determined students taking part. It’s very exciting to us as employers to be involved in an initiative that has a real impact on the young people that we could be working alongside one day – the technical, teamwork and creative skills developed during the programme are exactly the qualities that will help them succeed in their education and future careers too.”

The Department for Education has funded an Essential Life Skills* programme supporting schools within the Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area to take part in the FIRST® Tech Challenge. Co-chair of the Opportunity Area Partnership Board, and Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University, Liz Barnes comments:

“One of our key objectives in the Opportunity Area is driving social mobility in Stoke-On-Trent. Projects like FIRST® Tech Challenge – inspiring the next generation of science and technology students – are helping us achieve this goal. With a diverse variety of roles available within each team, the project is accessible to a broad number of young people from all backgrounds – not just those with a flair for coding, but also the more creative and practically-minded students too. Students also get a real flavour of what working in an industry team is like. By delivering such a rewarding, inclusive experience, young people’s aspirations are raised, and their potential unlocked. We cannot wait to see what its store for next year’s competition.”

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

“This is a huge achievement for Newcastle Academy and everyone who took part. I wish them luck as they showcase their skills and creativity in the global grand final. Competing in challenges like this is great for helping young people build character and resilience, alongside ensuring they have the technical skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow, so Britain keeps up with the pace of technological change.

“The Opportunity Area programme is helping achieve this by investing in young people the next generation so they have the skills, experience and support to go as far as their talents will take them, whatever their background.”

Ed Cervantes-Watson, FIRST® UK CEO comments:

“FIRST® Tech Challenge is more than robots – it’s a vast collaborative effort between the young people involved and the hundreds of industry mentors, teachers and volunteers who invest their time and energy to inspire the next generation. We’re not setting out to find next Steve Jobs, but if the 1,500 participants this year are less intimated by STEM, more aware of subject choices and career pathways available, and have developed the technical know-how and core life skills needed to better take on tomorrow’s challenges – then that’s mission accomplished.”

The next season of FIRST® Tech Challenge UK will launch on 1st May 2019, visit for more information.

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