St Mary’s all-girls team reaches quarter final of European Robotics Championship

St Mary's Junior School | 26 Jun 2019
Four 11-year-old girls from St Mary’s School, Cambridge proved ‘Yes She Can’ by beating several teams in the aged 14–18 category to reach the quarter finals of the prestigious RoboCupJunior European Robotics Championship in Germany on 21–23 June.
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Their team of four Year 6 girls—Emily Brunt, Alexis Kennedy, Elena Sheehan and Sadie Pollock—were the only Primary age group team representing the UK, and were the only all-girls team!

The competition also turned into a test of the girls’ resilience as, when preparing to fly out to Hannover and less than 24 hours before departure, the team were informed that they would have to compete in the Open Rescue Simulation League—a league for students aged 14–18. This league has different rules and is much more complex, but despite this the 11-year-old girls rose to the challenge and were determined to compete with the older teams on equal terms.

The decision to change the team’s league was made by the championship organisers because the St Mary’s Junior School team was the only Primary age group team to enter out of 18 eligible countries across Europe. They were also the only all-girls team, with just two other girls competing in the entire Rescue Simulation League.

After a very intense programming session the girls managed to get to grips with the new requirements and were delighted to win their first match on 21 June against a team of 17-year-olds from Italy.

In very quick succession, they then played against teams from Portugal and Croatia. Each of these was a narrow defeat, but their individual match scores more than doubled during the course of this round. Their results were good enough to enable them to take part in a knockout match against another Italian team for a place in the quarter finals. They won a decisive victory against the team of four 17-year-old boys, who were last year's European Open Rescue Simulation champions. The girls won this match with a score of 920 points to the Italians’ 615 points, knocking the Italian team out of the championship and progressing to the quarter finals.

Despite a valiant effort and a new personal best match score of 980 points, our team lost their match to a very strong Russian team of 18-year-old boys, who were the overall highest scorers in the competition at that stage and went on to be crowned European Champions. After a series of nerve-wracking playoff matches the girls were awarded 8th place overall.

Our girls were then teamed up with a German team and a Portuguese team to form a Super Team for a separate competition. Following a collaborative programming session in which three different languages were being spoken, a series of playoff matches took place. The Super Team featuring the St Mary’s girls was awarded 2nd place, and their contribution to this success had clearly won them the respect of their much older new teammates.

On 23 June, the St Mary’s team were invited to compete in a 'Friendship Tournament', before watching the grand final and attending the awards ceremony.

A true indication of their acceptance into the exclusive European Rescue Simulation community came with an unexpected invitation to participate in a monthly 'virtual' tournament, which uses email and Skype conference calling to allow teams to compete against each other across the Internet from their own countries. This is an opportunity that St Mary’s hopes to explore in more detail during the next academic year. All girls at St Mary’s Junior School benefit from their specialist-taught Computer Science and STEM curriculum.

Mr. Andrew Severy, Computer Science Coordinator at St Mary’s Junior School, Cambridge, said: "I am incredibly proud of our team and their achievements over what have been three extremely intense and exciting days of competition. To become European Championship Quarter Finalists in a league intended for very much older students, having had to cope with a last-minute change to a much more complicated set of rules and conditions, is a truly remarkable achievement. The girls have demonstrated incredible teamwork, commitment and maturity, and have never allowed themselves to be daunted or intimidated by the circumstances or the scale of the challenges facing them. Through all of their interactions with the older students and the adult organisers, they have been superb ambassadors for both St Mary's Junior School and the United Kingdom as a whole. They richly deserve their success and I am confident that they have a great future ahead of them in the areas of STEM and Computer Science both at school and beyond".

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About St Mary's Junior School

St Mary’s School, Cambridge offers a safe and secure learning environment for girls. A Christian school run in the Catholic tradition and founded on the principles of Mary Ward, we have a unique approach to education and an atmosphere which fosters a love of life and learning, while growing the academic talents and spiritual wellbeing of each individual girl, from within.

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