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Young students strut their tech stuff

Jacob Bouzane, Joseph Ditner and Braeden Hof took home gold in Lego Robotics at the Waterloo Regional Technological Skills Competition on Feb. 27. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

Young techies in Woolwich and Wellesley showed off their knowledge at the Waterloo Region Technological Skills Competition last week, bringing home medals in Lego Robotics and Video Editing.

Jacob Bouzane, Joseph Ditner and Braeden Hof took home gold in Lego Robotics at the Waterloo Regional Technological Skills Competition on Feb. 27.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Jacob Bouzane, Joseph Ditner and Braeden Hof took home gold in Lego Robotics at the Waterloo Regional Technological Skills Competition on Feb. 27. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The intermediate Lego Robotics team at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School in Elmira earned gold for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

Teacher Cheryl Elliot-Fraser says they start the Lego Robotics club as early as Grade 4 and the intermediates teach the juniors. They have to build a robot and then program it to do different tasks.

“We practice using different styles of tracks and using different types of arms,” Elliot-Fraser said. “Prior to that they went around to every classroom and demonstrated it, just to get other students interested. These guys have really taken a leadership role in the sense that they’re teaching other students in the school also how to build robots. They’ve been working with our junior teams too.”

They first work with the students and teach them how to program it so it goes around a track and then they start using more sophisticated tracks.

“These guys went on their PA day,” Elliot-Fraser said. “So all the students showed up that day and they ended up having, in total, at least 200.”

More than 650 students in total competed from both school boards.

At the junior level teams can compete in Lego, where they build things out of Lego, Lego Robotics, and then Design and Build. Intermediate teams can compete in those categories plus Construction and Video Editing.

“We haven’t done video editing here but we’re hoping to start it next year,” Elliot-Fraser said.

Braeden Hof, Jacob Bouzane, and Joseph Ditner were the winning team.

“The first step was to create our robot and then we had to do three challenges,” Hof said. “The first challenge was we had to create a robot arm to launch a ball into a basketball net.”

Bouzane added, “And we had three tries. If you shoot from the middle of the little platform and you get it into the net with the arm then it’s 10 points. We got it perfect all three times, so that was 30 points that we got.”

Ditner said if they wouldn’t have made it from there they would have had to shoot from closer for five points, or even closer for three points.

The second competition was to create an arm to shoot a hockey puck into a net.

“It’s the same as the basketball,” Bouzane explained. “If you shoot from the middle of the platform you get 10 points, but you only get one try. So we got only 10 points from there.”

The third competition was to make a program so the robot could maneouvre a maze labyrinth. There was green tape around the edge of the track and if the robot touched it you had five seconds added to your time. The goal was to get through it as fast as possible.

“On the maze that we had to go through our robot just before it reached the end, it got stuck on a fence,” Bouzane said. “We did so well on the other two that we still beat everybody else.”

In preparation for the competition the team met and practiced making their robot go around different tracks and built different arms to see the best way to complete the basketball and hockey challenges.

“We all thought that robotics would be fun so we all signed up for the very first year,” Hof said.

Wellesley Public School’s intermediate team won third in Lego Robotics and first in Video Editing for the Waterloo Regional District School Board.

Timothy Zwart, Liam Robertson, Sarah Rath, and Cameron Ramer made up the Lego Robotics team and Jacquiline Bender and Noelle Marshall were the Video and Editing team.

They said they practiced nearly every day building and programming the robot.

“We tried and tried and tried and tried and it didn’t work, and we tried again and it worked,” Zwart said.

Robertson added, “It was like a guess and check. We’d guess and check until we got it right.”

He said working as a team was sometimes frustrating, but then it felt good when they’d figure out a solution.

“We unfortunately didn’t score any points in hockey, and the maze,” Robertson said.

Rath finished, “We ran over a tree in the maze.”

They split the work with two of them building and the other two programming the robot.

Bender and Marshall’s video that took top honors was an episode about bullying that could be continued in the future, like a saga.

“It was anti-bullying week last week, so we just got that inspiration from a whole bunch of stories we had heard over the week and decided it would be a good topic,” Bender said.

They were judged on creativity, how interesting it was, their shots, and how the shots went together.

“We had to learn how to use iMovie and I had never used that before, but luckily Noelle has so that really helped. And she knew how to use the camera,” Bender said.

They’re moving on to provincials on May 4 because of their first place win. They’ll be given a new task the day of to make a video.

“It’s fun. You should do it,” Bender said.

Teacher Joe Donofrio said their video was judged on content as well as the technical aspects. The provincials will be held at RIM Park in Waterloo.

“It’s a really educational pastime. I think we’re lucky to have kids we can learn so much from here at Wellesley,” Donofrio said.

Teacher Jacalyn Beck said they were responsible for shooting, editing, adding music and titles to the video. They’ll get to see last year’s video to have an idea of the complexity of what the judges are looking for.

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