Robot whizz-kids from Sheffield need help to get them to world championship

A team of Sheffield whizz-kids have earned a place at the robotics world championship - now they need your help to get them there.

Tuesday, 28th August 2018, 15:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th August 2018, 15:56 pm
Alex O'Carroll, Sofia Armitage and Allen Yang, who will compete for glory in Shanghai later this year

The trio of six and seven-year-olds proved their programming prowess to finish second in their age group at the World Educational Robot (WER) Contest held at the University of Sheffield last month.

Action from the 2018 UK Regional World Educational Robot (WER) Contest in Sheffield

That was good enough to secure a sought-after spot at the WER World Championship in Shanghai in December, where they will become the UK's first ever representatives, but they are trying to raise the money to ensure they can make the trip.

A crowdfunding appeal has been launched to raise the £5,500 needed to pay for flights, accommodation and other expenses so Allen Yang and Sofia Armitage, both aged seven, and six-year-old Alex O'Carroll get the chance to pit their wits against the world's brightest pupils.

Alex's mum Liz O'Carroll said: "We're very proud of what they've achieved. When they started it was just a bit of fun and no one had any idea how big this thing was.

Sheffield lord mayor Magid Magid with competitors at the 2018 UK Regional World Educational Robot (WER) Contest in Sheffield

"It's an awesome opportunity for them to represent their country, but it's not going to be cheap so we need all the help we can get."

More than 500,000 four to 18-year-olds from 50 countries compete each year in WER tournaments around the globe, building their own robots before programming them to complete various tasks, with only the finest young minds getting the chance to battle it out on the biggest stage.

At last month's competition, in which 50 children from the UK and 50 from Shanghai competed, all 10 challenges had practical applications in the real world, from litter-picking to operating GPS systems.

Allen, Alex and Sofia will be competing this December in the six to 11 age category, meaning they will be up against much older rivals.

Joining them in Shanghai will be Team Elyrion, made up of Madeleine Sanderson and Walter Mace, who were the highest-placed UK team in the middle and high school age group.

Alex said: "I've always enjoyed building robots and would love to be a robot scientist one day, so I'm really excited about competing in Shanghai."

Allen and Sofia attend Lydgate Infant School in Crosspool, while Alex goes to Tankersley St Peter's Primary School.

They were brought together by Discovery STEM Education, a not-for-profit organisation based at Kelham Island Museum, which organised the competition in July.

Discovery runs after-school clubs, holiday workshops and other activities in an attempt to get more children interested in science, technology, engineering and maths, and to foster their talents.

Dr Melissa Butt, of Discovery, said: "This is a great achievement by both teams, who will be role models to the growing UK community of children training for the 2019 UK regional WER which will take place at the Octagon Centre, Sheffield University, in July 2019."