Conor Eager is a self-professed geek who is switched onto the high-tech field of robotics.
In April this year he and team mate Austin Pollard represented New Zealand at a global robotics competition in the US.
The pair earnt the right after being part of a six-strong team called the Nakibots that won the National VEX IQ championships last December in Palmerston North.
Not all the team was able to make the trip. Thanks, however to an individual grant of $500 from TSB Community Trust, Conor and his team mate Austin were there for the three-day contest.
Conor describes the indoor venue in Louisville Kentucky as vast. “It was about the size of the Waiwhakaiho Valley shopping centre and that’s not including the carpark.”
The event broke a Guinness world record for attendance numbers. About 1070 teams made up of tertiary, high school, intermediate and junior school students took part.
Seeing hundreds of robotic designs in action was a highlight, as well as learning to think and act under stress.
Conor and Austin’s section included 10 qualifying matches, which involved robots shoveling orange balls into a goal.
Conor’s Dad, Adam, says the pair faced challenges such as having to think on their feet and fix their broken robot minutes before they went into a qualifying round. “It was a proper mess. I thought the kids are either going to melt down or solve the problem and they solved it.”
VEX is a system of components that come in a kit and fit together to create a small robot. The kits resemble Meccano sets – but with a high tech, modern-day twist, no instruction manual and hundreds of individual pieces.
Operators write code and programme the small machines so they can make multiple moves using a simple hand controller.
For Conor, an animated, articulate Year 7 student, robotics and the VEX system offers a world of possibilities. He’s aiming to write his first app by the age of 20 and has dubbed the garage where his VEX equipment is set up as the ‘high tech development centre.’
“My main hobby is geeking. In other words, programming, building and testing the robots and writing the code. I’ve learnt a bit about the Swift language which is what developers use to make apps for Apple products.”
Conor says robotics spans science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and local schools are starting to invest in the systems. He is hoping to get to another VEX overseas contest one of these days - and we imagine he will!