North East tech urged to back Gateshead school’s international robotics ambition

Tech sector support organisation Sunderland Software City (SSC) has issued a rallying cry to the North East’s digital technology community to help a Gateshead school realise its dreams of international robotics excellence.

Bill Quay Primary School’s VEX Robotics Team is seeking sponsorship to fund hopes of competing at the forthcoming VEX Robotics World Championships, set to take place in Texas next month.

VEX Robotics is an international robot-building programme that provides children with exciting, open-ended robotics challenges that enhance their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills through hands-on, student-centred learning.

This allows pupils to compete in a game-based engineering challenge competition which fosters student development in teamwork, critical thinking, project management, and communication skills. It also prepares the children to become the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.

During this academic year, Bill Quay pupils have taken part in numerous VEX IQ competitions throughout the North East which led to them competing in the national finals in Telford in March. As a result of their hard work, dedication, drive and excellent coding skills, they have qualified to compete in the World Championships to be held in Texas in May.

Bill Quay approached regional tech sector support organisation SSC to help fund their journey and tap into the wider network of the region’s growing technology community for support.

Jamie Hardesty, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at SSC, said: “What pupils at Bill Quay have achieved so far in their robotics journey is incredible. We are determined to help them showcase their talents on the international stage and get them to Texas!

“At SSC we are fiercely passionate about growing our region’s digital technology sector. It was a real pleasure to host Bill Quay pupils and their robots at our emerging tech centre in March where we witnessed first hand how the next generation of talent has the desire to learn.

“It’s a privilege to sponsor them and we hope other North East technology organisations can follow suit and lend their support too. Please, please get involved and donate what you can to their cause!”

VEX Robotics is the largest robotics competition in the world and if Bill Quay pupils are to get there next month they need a further £10,000 in sponsorship money to realise the dream.

Bill Quay’s ICT Lead, Mrs Gina Dye, has felt ‘blown away’ by the curiosity, ambition and dedication displayed by pupils throughout the programme and believes the Team fully deserves to compete on the global stage in May.

She said: “We are in shock as to how well our pupils have done because this competition and opportunity is massive. We are one of only four UK schools aiming to get to Texas and I can’t stress enough how much the children deserve this. They are in my classroom every lunchtime building and problem-solving, it really is inspiring!”

Mrs Dye found out about VEX’s robot building and coding opportunities when looking for computing-related activities that would inspire and engage her students. The appetite for robotics in school has grown so much that she is now working on converting an old caretaker’s shed onsite into a ‘STEM Shed’, a bespoke facility to help pupils can continue their STEM journey.

Dr Ashmita Randhawa, SSC’s Head of Innovation, added: “We were fascinated when Bill Quay students demoed their robots at our innovation lab. To go this far in the VEX competition is a testament to the hard work and creativity of Mrs Dye and her pupils.

“As someone who is particularly passionate about the development of digital and STEM skills in young women, it is incredibly impressive to witness what the group has achieved. It is so important to see initiatives like this from an early-age to help futureproof the success of our digital industries. We hope our support can help the team compete in the Internationals!”

100% of donations will go towards funding the trip to Dallas and as an incentive to sponsor the team, Bill Quay will use sponsoring company logos throughout the competition on its team kit, banners and across its social media platforms. The team’s gofundme page can be accessed here.

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