[PODCAST]  Texpand Robotics Sponsorship

Episode 16 of Take Flight, is out! We dive into the journey of Texpand, a Cape Town-based robotics team, competing in a robotics world championship.

[PODCAST]  Texpand Robotics Sponsorship

Episode 16 of our podcast, Take Flight, is out! Join us as we dive into the inspiring journey of Texpand, a Cape Town-based robotics team partly sponsored by Spitfire Inbound, to compete in a robotics world championship.

Did you know that fewer than 2% of African students under 18 years complete school with vital Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills. As South Africans, we greatly appreciate any chance we get to contribute to the education of our youth, particularly in the significant and fulfilling field of STEM careers.

Recently, Spitfire Inbound made a partial sponsorship contribution towards Texpand, a Cape Town-based robotics team, for their participation in an international competition, The First Tech Challenge (FTC), held in Texas in April 2023. In our latest podcast episode, we had the opportunity to chat to Michelle Buckle, the volunteer team coach of Texpand, and two esteemed students from Texpand, Ethan Buckle and Matthew Greenwood, about this incredible experience. 

The First Tech Challenge Competition and Awards

The FTC challenge for 2023 was called Power Play, where teams used technology to build and program robots that competed to collect and stack cones on poles of varying heights. The competition was certainly an unforgettable experience for all involved, as teams pushed themselves to their limits and achieved results they never thought possible.  

The First Tech Challenge goes beyond being just a robot competition. Alongside the robot matches, teams also have the opportunity to compete for ‘judged awards.’ Selecting the award winners is a challenging endeavour, and the judges approach this responsibility with careful consideration and keen attention to detail. These judged awards serve as a means to acknowledge teams that exemplify crucial values such as professionalism, teamwork, creativity, innovation, and the significance of the engineering design process.

Texpand claims the 1st prize for The Think Award in the FTC competition

These judged awards include the Winning Alliance Award, the Inspire Award, the Motivate Award, the Connect Award, and the Think Award, among others. 

Texpand placed 18th in the overall competition, but their remarkable dedication and creativity led them to claiming the 1st prize for the THINK AWARD of the competition, solidifying their position as true champions of innovation.

“We really couldn't believe that we ended up winning the first place Think Award. It’s really incredible and it's an award many teams aspire to get because you get it for having an exceptional engineering process and having a whole lot of creativity, and that's a huge part of what the competition is about.” - Ethan Buckle. 

The Think Award recognises teams that exhibit extraordinary creative thinking to conquer engineering challenges. It celebrates the team's transformative journey throughout the build season as they navigate the intricacies of the engineering design process.

For this prestigious award, the judges rely on the team's portfolio, which contains meticulously detailed engineering content. The portfolio should primarily focus on the design and construction phases of the team's robot, highlighting their technical expertise and problem-solving expertise. 

Through their thoughtfully crafted portfolio, Texpand effectively communicated their deep understanding of engineering principles and showcased their ingenious solutions to overcome challenges. Their strategic game approach demonstrated a level of sophistication that left the judges in awe.

Texpand’s Journey and Advice for STEM students

The Texpand robotics team sprung to life in 2020 with clear goals in mind - to compete in the FTC competition and provide opportunities for students to develop their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills. 

At Texpand, knowledge sharing lies at the heart of their culture. They firmly believe that the collective intelligence and expertise of team members are valuable resources that should be shared and utilised to their fullest extent. Texpand creates an environment where individuals are encouraged to openly exchange ideas, insights, and experiences, creating a collaborative atmosphere that fuels continuous learning and growth.

We’ve built this culture in the team of self-learning and passing on the skills to others.” - Michelle Buckle, the volunteer team coach of Texpand. 

To learn more about Texpand’s journey and the FTC competition, have a look at our blog: Texpand | 2023 FTC World Championship.

Ethan and Matthew shared their nuggets of advice for students wishing to pursue a career in STEM:

“I realised, from being in FTC and part of Texpand, just how much of a deeper understanding you get by doing something practical rather than just learning about it and just learning the theory of something. So, if you want to learn something, you must not wait for someone to teach you or to come and train you on it. You should rather set a goal for something and just work towards achieving this goal and just picking that up by yourself.”- Ethan Buckle. 

“Building on what Ethan said, you mustn't be afraid to experiment because that's probably what's going to hold you back the most. Even if you fail, what do you have to lose?” - Matthew Greenwood.

The importance of STEM Skills in South Africa

During our discussion, Michelle also shined a spotlight on the pivotal role of STEM skills in propelling the South African economy, while unveiling Texpand's contributions to their expansion. 

"STEM skills are the key to unlocking the doors of high-demand, high-paying jobs in the future”. - Michelle Buckle. 

Michelle emphasised the significance of STEM skills in South Africa, drawing attention to a recent publication by the World Economic Forum that highlights the top 10 skills needed in 2025, many of which were directly related to STEM. She believes that STEM learning can foster essential abilities like complex problem-solving, analytical thinking, and innovation, a skillset that will empower South Africa to make a meaningful mark on the global economy.

Texpand exemplifies this ethos and leads by example, not only by nurturing STEM proficiency but also by fostering interpersonal skills within their team.

Matthew Greenwood shared more on his valuable experience from being part of the team: "One of the most rewarding aspects of my time at Texpand has been gaining confidence not only in technical expertise but also in myself. I have honed my communication, time management, strategic thinking, and, of course, calculation abilities significantly."

Through their commitment to continuous skill development, Texpand not only embraces STEM but also cultivates a well-rounded skill set that empowers their team members to thrive in diverse domains. 

Ultimately, Texpand's success in the FTC competition and their commitment to STEM education and knowledge sharing, demonstrate their unwavering dedication to personal and collective growth. Through their journey, they inspire the South African youth to embrace the world of STEM and its vast possibilities, leaving a lasting impact on their team, community, and the future of innovation.

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