Meet Caitlin Shaw, robot fan

Emily AceSouth Western Times
Year 11 robotics whiz Caitlin Shaw is set to compete in the RoboCup Junior WA state event to be held at Curtin Stadium this week.
Camera IconYear 11 robotics whiz Caitlin Shaw is set to compete in the RoboCup Junior WA state event to be held at Curtin Stadium this week. Credit: South Western Times

At just 15 years of age, Caitlin Shaw’s aptitude for coding and robotics saw her take home a gold medal at the WA RoboCup Junior State Competition in the open nomination – the highest division – where she took on students two years her senior.

Most impressively, she accomplished this feat all on her own.

One year on and the Year 11 Bunbury Cathedral Grammar Student is returning to Curtin University tomorrow to again compete at State level to reclaim the title – and the Bunbury whiz kid is quietly confident.

“I’m hopeful but I don’t know – in the open division anyone can compete in it, but it is the highest division, so not many people do,” she said with a coy smile.

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“It’s all problem solving – there are lots of different programming languages and different robots.”

In the two-day State competition, participants must abide by strict rules in order to receive points, including competing with a robot of original design, which has been built and programmed by students in advance.

The robots must be fully autonomous in behaviour from start to finish and cannot be controlled by any kind of remote.

“With the division we are in, it is ‘search and rescue’, so you have to have the robot follow a line and go over obstacles and around things,” she said.

“You know what you have to do and you hopefully have to be able to make the robot do it – it is a lot of trial and error though.”

“The course is different lengths each time, so you have to have it check in then come back so it can continuously do it.”

This year, Caitlin has her sights set on competing at the national competition in Brisbane.

“I didn’t last year, I wasn’t prepared enough – we didn’t know about it until a month before and it was a rush, but hopefully this year I will go,” she said.

Caitlin competes individually under the name Simplex Nomina – which means ‘simple name’ in Latin – and said working on her own had its advantages as well as its drawbacks.

“It’s easier in some ways and a lot harder,” she said.

“When you are working in a group you split it up into different aspects, so you have a lot less to do, but it’s hard to get the different aspects to work together properly.”

Originally from Dunedin, New Zealand, Caitlin’s interest in robotics was evident from an early age.

“When I was a kid, my dad worked at a meat plant and they had these electronic robots – my favourite thing to do was to watch the video of them working.”

Caitlin competed in robotic competitions twice in New Zealand before her family settled in Bunbury when she was 14-years-old.

The talented and ambitious teen is looking to study mechatronic engineering in the future, a field which creates robots and smarter products to push technology to new frontiers.

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