Hard work pays off for Rotorua robotic students

Friday, 4 December 2020

Rotorua robotic students came out on top following the 2020 AquaBots National Competition in Masterton last weekend (28 and 29 November 2020).

21 students travelled to Masterton and Team Tahi, from the Te Aka Mauri (TAM) Young Engineers Club, won the AquaBots college division. Team Tahi included students Swian Lloyd-Jones (Year 8 Mokoia Intermediate) and Jurnee Leonard (Year 9 Western Heights High School).

Teams who placed first at the New Zealand national competition qualify for the International AquaBots Competition usually held in the USA in June 2021.  At this time they are unsure what that competition will look like with COVID-19 travel restrictions in place.

It is under the dedicated leadership of Rotorua Museum Digital Technology Educator, Jessica Wilkes, that has seen a huge growth in interest and availability of digital education programmes for Rotorua students. Jessica started Rotorua AquaBots only two years ago. This year Rotorua hosted the regional event of 49 teams (the largest regional event in New Zealand) and she accompanied the qualifying nine teams to Masterton. The national competition hosted 23 teams from Auckland, Rotorua, Masterton and Nelson.

“We only had three weeks to prepare for the tougher national event with many students away on camp or involved in other school events. The day before the competition was the first time they were able to practice the new challenges in the water with their AquaBots”, says Ms Wilkes.

The 2020 AquaBot national challenges were not only different from the regional challenges but teams needed to adjust how they functioned.  All of the national challenges required teams to share the robot driving equally, whereas during the regionals team members focussed on a specific task.

“On the day teams performed very well.  There were tears and disappointment during challenges as things did not go as planned, but in the end there was triumph.  All the teams should be very proud of their results”, says Ms Wilkes.


2020 AquaBots National Competition Final Results:

College Division:

First: Team Tahi (TAM Young Engineers Club)

Third: Wai Wahine (Te Rangihakahaka)


Intermediate Division:

Second: Baffle Bot Broz (Galatea)


Primary Division:

Second: Te Waka Ora (St Mary’s Catholic School)

Third: Soggy Potatoes (TAM Young Engineers Club)


Overall winners for individual challenges:

First in Seesaw (tipping levers back and forth as many times in five minutes): Team Tahi

First in Engine Reconstruction (collecting hoops and placing them on hooks in the correct colour order in five minutes): Wai Wahine


AquaBots is an underwater robotics programme for school-aged children in New Zealand. Teams are formed from Year 5 – 13 students and aims to inspire students and help discover the next generation of Kiwi scientists and engineers.

The Rotorua AquaBots programme has received generous support from the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and the Ministry of Business and Innovation.


Image credit: 2020 National AquaBots College Division winners – Team Tahi, TAM Young Engineers Club Swian Lloyd-Jones and Jurnee Leonard.

Image credit: Rotorua Regional teams that attended 2020 AquaBots Nationals


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