Eleven robotics and engineering teams descended upon the Parkhouse Centre, Bude, recently to take part in the regional heats for FIRST LEGO League.

A large international STEM competition, the league asks pupils aged nine to 16 to build and program a LEGO robot to undertake 16 different missions, present an innovation project to a panel of judges and work together as a team to achieve the overall Champion’s Award which celebrates teams who achieve across the board; in the robot game, robot and program design, innovation project and Core Values (fun, teamwork, impact, inclusion, discovery and innovation).

The organiser and host, Cognition Learning, is a Bude-based Community Interest Company dedicated to providing creative and hands-on STEM Learning opportunities to children and young people in our surrounding area.

The directors Sophie Calienda and Briony Cole said: “It was a superb day! The energy was great, the children were all thrilled with their work and their achievements and all of the volunteers fulfilled their roles admirably.

“This is the second year we’ve hosted the competition in Bude and we’ve seen it grow from five teams to 11 with fantastic take up from local secondary schools. The teams were really enthused about STEAM and many were saying they wanted to do it all over again and continue their robotics clubs through the remainder of the academic year.

“Providing these events in our remote location is our raison d’etre; we know how expensive it is for schools to travel, and we do not want our local children to miss out on fantastic learning opportunities such as these. We’re incredibly grateful for the support we’ve had from our local schools and hope to see the event grow again next year.”

Luke Stokes, the computing lead at Park School said: “My club has already told me they are entering next year, they also want me to put on a summer camp for it!”

Throughout the day we spoke with several teams and the pupils who said they were having “The best day at school ever!”.

The young people particularly enjoyed the spirit of camaraderie amongst the competing teams; they enjoyed sharing ideas and helping each other out throughout the day.

Cognition Learning have been working closely with GCHQ Bude as principal sponsors for the event; they funded entry and kits for most of the teams attending, as well as coaching and development sessions for the teams.

GCHQ Bude’s outreach officer said: “GCHQ Bude has taken great pleasure from being able to provide direct support to several of the participating schools’ teams.

“Any activity that encourages girls and boys to work in teams, solve challenges together and deliver their solutions in a practical way means they are developing the same skills that GCHQ staff apply every day in their work.”

The Champion’s Award went to a team from Braunton School whose fantastic teamwork, positive attitude and professionalism helped them to succeed across the board.

All of the teams competed admirably, and the primary schools were very well represented with Stratton Primary School coming 3rd in the Innovation Project and 4th in the Robot Game; a remarkable achievement up against so many secondary schools.

Bude Primary Academy took the judges ‘Breakthrough Award’ selected for a team who overcame their nerves and grew in confidence throughout the day.

Special mention also went to Harry, who represented Take 2 Cornwall. He started as part of a team of four, but his teammates were reintegrated into schools in January, so he completed the project solo. He came first in the robot games beating the nearest team by an incredible 30 points and the cheer he received from the other children when he collected his trophy brought tears to everyone’s eyes.

The event would not have worked were it not for the “competent, helpful and friendly” team of volunteers from GCHQ Bude, Bott Ltd and Celtic Sea Power who helped throughout the day.

Phil Johnston from Celtic Sea Power said: ‘It was a real pleasure to help answer the children’s (many) questions about offshore wind – and see their projects take shape! It’s of real importance to us at Celtic Sea Power and to the offshore wind industry as a whole.

“In the next 10 to 15 years 4GW of floating offshore wind farms will be built off the north coast of Cornwall. So kids getting into STEM now - thanks to First Lego League and Cognition Learning really will be the engineers and technicians of the future – with good careers in Cornwall.”

Refreshments were funded by our local supermarkets with Sainsbury’s of Bude donating fruit for all the children and LIDL Bude donating pastries and rolls for Breakfast and Lunch.

Sophie and Briony added: “We wish the team from Braunton Academy the very best for the National Finals in Harrogate on April 22nd. We will be cheering you on!”