Lead mentor and EDSS technology teacher Ron Fletcher said the year was a successful one.
“It is amazing how the community came together to support our group. From the business sponsors, the mentors and the families, it took a lot of people to make it all happen and it was a great year.”
The FIRST (for inspiration and recognition of science and technology) Robotics program was created in 2001 with the goal of inspiring “high school and elementary students to pursue further studies and careers in science, technology and engineering.” The organization hosts seven tournaments across Canada each year where teams compete in “intense robo-sports.”
This year, the event called “aerial assist” involved using a robot to shoot exercise balls into scoring baskets.
“We started by having the group brainstorm ideas for what we wanted our robot to do,” Fletcher said. “Did we want a great catcher, or a really good thrower? “
A group of 15 mentors including EDSS staff, industry professionals and University of Waterloo students shared their expertise as well.
It took six weeks to construct the machine, drawing on the students’ electrical, mechanical and computer engineering abilities. There are strict guidelines to follow, including specific batteries for power and a 120-pound weight limit, but they managed to build a quick and agile robot that can launch about “as far and hard as any of the others we’ve seen,” Fletcher said.
“Ours came in at about 118-119 pounds, so it was on a bit of a weight-loss program during the last week. We were calling it the biggest loser,” Fletcher laughed.
In March, the team took part in the regional competition at the University of Waterloo, finishing in 5th place and winning the rookie all-star trophy.
Next, the group travelled to Windsor for the Windsor-Essex Great Lakes-Regional, where they picked up the “inspirational rookie” award.
The season culminated with a trip to the world championships in St. Louis, Missouri on April 22-25. Again, the team impressed judges and were named rookie all-stars.
Next year will bring an entirely new competition, and with it, a new robot. But Fletcher is confident the team can carry its momentum forward.
“It’s all about getting kids excited about science and technology. This is a fun way for young people to get involved in the community and the response has been excellent. We’re really excited about it.”