who we are
We are the Barker Redbacks, an Australian robotics team from Barker College, a private school in Sydney's Upper North Shore. Founded in 2013, we participated for the first time at the annual offseason event, Duel Down Under, held in Sydney in July. In a school consisting of over 2000 students from kindergarten to Year 12, and over 150 teaching staff, robotics is a popular interest at the school. The school robotics program consists of small leisure workshops in kindergarten, robotics clubs after school in Years 5 and 6 and robotics workshops in years 7-12. Our Junior School students in Years 5 and 6 participate in the FLL competition, our middle school students in Years 7-9 in FTC and our senior school students in Years 10-12 in FRC. Each level has different teachers in charge and is popular among students at the school.
Robotics first started at Barker College in 2013, with 7 students starting the FRC team. In 2015, the Junior School after-school clubs program began and robotics was one of the clubs, with the students building and programming robots built from Lego. A similar program began in 2016 for middle school students, beginning with Spheros and evolving into FTC teams. The programs were run after school twice a week during offseason to learn basic skills to build a successful robot.
Interest in robotics at school rose quickly after our 2015 robot was presented at our school celebration night at the conclusion of the school year, with many students registering to join the team for the 2016 season. By the end of the 2016 FRC competition season, almost 30 students joined the team, with many more younger students interested as well. The school started a robotics club for the younger students, who began with programming Spheros and created eight new FTC teams to participate in.
In 2016, Barker College opened Darkinjung Barker, another school campus about 1 hour north of Sydney in Yarramalong, on the Central Coast. This was a new approach to Indigenous education with students in K-6, as New South Wales accounts for about one third of the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The establishment of this unique campus is a result of the support of the local council, community and parents, as well as the Barker College council, staff, students, parents and alumni. The campus focuses on teaching Indigenous students living in rural areas on the Central Coast. Every fortnight, the students travel to the main campus to interact with other students and attend lessons such as art, music, woodwork, languages, and physical activities. The students also visit our robotics lab to learn more about robotics and what impact technology has on our daily life. They recently learnt about Spheros, gaining a hands-on experience by coding and driving them around, with an FRC student assigned to each member of the class. Robotics is not necessarily a metal box with arms and legs, but can be in the form of technology which follows instructions from a human, such as a Sphero from an iPad. These students will learn lots more at school in their following years at Darkinjung Barker and Barker College. If you would like to help the school support their education, you can visit the Darkinjung Barker website from this link.
Our FLL program, FTC program and FRC program are all heavily linked with one another. Some students from FRC may act as a mentor for FTC and FLL teams to guide them when another mentor is unavailable. Previous FRC students also come back to help during build season and offseason, creating a strong relationship with and between students.
in our community
Since our team was created, we have been creating strong bonding connections with the community outside Barker College and extending around the North Shore area. We have successfully help set up team 5876 - ARTEMIS ready for 2016 and 6510 - Pymble Pride, for the 2017 game. We regularly appoint presentations around the North Shore area to groups ranging from conferences, school assemblies, business networks and PROBUS presentations. We previously hosted the offseason event Duel Down Under from 2012 to 2015 at our school, which was the only FRC competition in Australia at the time. We hold mechanical workshops to students around Sydney and New South Wales to improve their skills with guidance from our mentors and team members and for our Indigenous students in the Darkinjung Barker community, as well as developing STEAM and FIRST in our community. We co-host weekly mentor calls to help unite FRC in Australia, as well as eliminating over $35,000 worth of shipping costs worldwide and all shipping costs in Australia. Our student projects (RedBoX and ARACHNE) have supported many teams around the world in building robots.
We also work with many international teams to start up numerous Chinese teams, assisting with building, advice and providing event support. We also set up team 5800 - Magic Island, in conjunction with Team 1772 - The Brazilian Trail Blazers. We also help supply parts to both 1772 and 5800 as well as numerous rookie teams with the RedBoX and ARACHNE.
We have given FRC teams access to our field for practice and hosted scrimmage events to give experience with defence and game elements in 2016 and 2017. Starting in 2015 we have also hosted webinars for remote teams and held various technical and strategic workshops for local teams. We have eliminated all forms of shipping cost in Australia for VEXPro products.
Our team works closely with our sponsors, who benefit from brand exposure: personalised promotional videos, newsletter articles & invitations to events. Our sponsors include Barker College (our school), Innovation First Inc., China Urban Youth Robotics Alliance (CUYRA), Bitrix24, Aluminium Warehouse, AllPlastics, Rockwell Automation, Auto One, Blackwoods,Treotham, IGUS, Solidworks, Autodesk, VEXPro and Direct Automation. Bitrix24 allows us to communicate effectively online with each other, AllPlastics supply the Polycarbonate and Acrylic for our RedBoX, and with IFI we showcase VEXPro parts to FRC Teams.
In Barker College Robotics, our mission is to bring students' ideas into reality and to challenge our thinking with out-of-the-box innovative solutions, reinforcing their mental strategies. Our team exists to fevelop our students' minds in FIRST. When we want a drivebase capable of crossing all defences, we challenge ourselves to think up a soltion. When our vision tracking isn't quite working, we challenge ourselves to identify the problem and fix it. We are all about the potential in our students and theri contributions to the team. We aim to give our students the power and courage to create change in our world, such as our student innovations RedBoX and ARACHNE. We shipped over 200 RedBoXes in 1 year to 14 countries around the world, each one transforming an unused Denso motor into a valuable resource. Our programming released ARACHNE a year later, which is a programming library in Java created in-house to simplify the challenge of developing advanced FRC programming routines. One of the key features is to help inexperienced teams develop complicated autonomous robot routines quickly. ARACHNE was a project which consumed 4 years and many hundreds of hours of hard work to develop and test. In 2017, we have made a dedicated effort to promote its usability to new teams. We have uploaded tutorial videos on our YouTube channel as well as uploading updates online weekly and our lead developer answering questions on the weekly mentor call nationwide. In short, ARACHNE simple, it reduces the number of files of code from over 100 to around 10.
Our students also lead workshops at Darkinjung Barker, running them on-site from 2017 and throughout the year. We focus on empowering Indigenous students by sharing the expertise that we have gained through FIRST, with the ultimate goal of enabling Darkinjung Barker to start and sustain their own FLL and FTC teams. This will help share th enefits of STEAM education to even the most disadvantaged of Australian communities.
We have joined in on FIRST's mission to inspire young engineers. Now it is also our mission to inspire others in everything we do. Whether it is our contributions to assist China to establish a new FRC regional, helping rookie teams program with ARACHNE or using the RedBoX, assisting with the creation of multiple new teams both locally and internationally - weaspire to lead the way in all we do. Our school, Barker College, has the mission of having a global impact - 'Beyond the Mint Gates'; encouraging its students to go out beyond the school gates and make a difference in the world. FIRST has given us the opportunity to bring this motto to life and engage in this challenge: aspiring to more than just competition, and taking on the challenge to inspire the world.