Published February 17, 2020
In 2003, Matthew was just 15 years old when he experienced a personal tragedy, the loss of his father. Looking for
some way to help Matthew channel his grief, Chi
Mau Cheung, design and technology teacher
at the Carmel Secondary School in Hong Kong,
lent him some robotics materials, a laptop, and
the ROBOLAB programming software. “I wanted
to use the project to encourage him not to give
up,” said Cheung. “Maybe it could help him
forget his pain for a little while and [let him]
concentrate on his potential.”
Using the robotics sets sparked a passion for
robotics that Matthew quickly passed on to his
classmates. He invited them to form a FIRST®
LEGO® League team with him, and, in 2006, the
Carmel Secondary School robotics team was
born. Since then, the Carmel team has moved
from FIRST LEGO League to forming Vanguard, a
FIRST Tech Challenge team started in 2016 that
won first place in robot performance as well as
the Spirit of Discovery Award at the 2019 Lunar
Legacy Invitational in Arizona.
“The team was founded in a student-led way,
highly spontaneous,” said Cheung. “After being
established, the team further developed. We
started joining more and more tournaments to
challenge ourselves. . . . Over the past 13 years,
our school has made remarkable achievements
in FIRST, building a great sense of achievement
THE EXCITEMENT CONTINUES TO BUILD
What began as a spontaneous action from one
student has now become a continuous journey
of learning, growth, and ownership among all
Carmel robotics students. Cheung provides
ample opportunities for students to learn about
and join the robotics teams. During the FIRST
Annual Information Day, Carmel robotics team
members share their experiences with interested
students, encouraging them to join the team. “By
showing our achievements and working lives on
pull-up banners and welcoming visitors to play
our mini robotics games, they learn more about
us and our culture,” said Cheung.
Cheung also sets up training programs
to boost interest in robotics. “Students are
exposed to new areas that they have not
encountered before, allowing them to develop
their abilities and interests,” Cheung explained.
But while Cheung provides opportunities,
the learning and team effort is truly student led.
“The pass-on spirit in our team is particularly
strong,” said Cheung. “Senior students are
willing to teach as much as they can to younger
students to help them absorb, ‘inherit,’ some of
the skills and knowledge. Even some alumni . . .
come back to school to see the progress before
the competition, providing concrete and useful
advice to junior members to further improve
and polish their performances.”
Cheung has seen remarkable changes in
his robotics students over the years. “They are
more willing to shoulder more responsibilities,
to contribute more to the team in different
roles. . . . They will work after school, sometimes
in the morning before school, or even on the
lunch break. They won’t miss any chance to
And Matthew, who started it all with his
passion for robotics and willingness to share
it with others, is now a software development
engineer in Golden, Colorado. Colorado – living
proof that it only takes a small spark to ignite a
lifelong passion for learning.
TETRIX®: A STRONG SYSTEM
FOR A STRONG TEAM
The Vanguard FIRST Tech Challenge team likes
to use TETRIX® to build their robots. “We like
TETRIX’s flexibility and strength,” said Cheung.
“TETRIX can build up with other materials very
well, like acrylic board, wooden boards, and so
on. We can build our car with other materials
more easily with the use of TETRIX components.
This encourages a more diversified use of
different materials to improve the performance
of our car, which is beneficial to our long-term
developments and the innovation of new ideas.
Moreover, the durability of TETRIX is also one of
its outstanding strengths, since our robot needs
to be durable and strong.”
Outside of the U.S. and need a TETRIX set for your FIRST team?
Contact Annie Edson at firstname.lastname@example.org.