A group of Calgary students made an impression at a robotics competition in China but learned more than just how to build a robot.

The group of 25 won gold in Shanghai on August 14, 2016 but also learned the value of teamwork, technology and life skills.

First Robotics is an international organization that brings the best of the best together as they battle it out for robot supremacy.

“The motto is gracious professionalism”, says Max Kaulback of First Robotics Western Canada. “ There are 3500 teams worldwide. It’s a very intense competition. They have six weeks to design, build and program a robot starting in January when the game is actually announced.”

The Calgary team is made up of students from six of the city’s high schools.

They won regionals and several competitions around North America before being invited to the world championships in China.

This year, teams had to build a robot that could handle medieval obstacles like moats and cobblestone streets in order to breach the defences of a castle.

The team with the most points at the end of the competition wins.

The Calgary team ran into some trouble with their robot when a malfunction prevented it from throwing balls about two metres into the air as part of the challenge.

“The gear box on one side of the arm broke and the other side was doing all the work so it fried,” says Kai Hefner ATA Team Leader. “We had to bash it against an obstacle so it would go to the ground and be able to pick up the balls.”

“Definitely when our intake started breaking,” agrees teammate Hayden Scarlett.” The ball would get jammed in there. We had two pieces of plastic and we had to shape them to direct the ball to the intake better.”

There was one learning moment that Hefner remembers clearly when they noticed a robot belonging to the Chinese team didn’t do anything except drive.

“Here’s a design. This is what we’re going to do for you. We were building their robot,” says Hefner.

The group went home and came back the next day and the Chinese team had taken everything apart so they could build it themselves so they could learn and compete in the future.

“We learned that we need to run through how to build these robots with them rather than build it for them,” says Hefner.

The students say the program teaches mechanical skills while you build the robot and confidence to help you communicate with people.

They say this is not just for people interested in robotics; if you like business there is a place for you too since some of the challenge of the program is securing sponsors.