An impressive showing over the Easter weekend by Woodland Christian High School and Elmira District Secondary School’s robotics teams at regional competition has earned them both a trip to St. Louis for the world championship.

The FIRST Robotics World Championship runs Apr. 26-29.

The Woodland team, the CyberCavs, finished ninth in the province this weekend to earn their spot. The Elmira team finished 14th in the province and earned a wild card spot for the world championship.

One of the Elmira team’s coaches, Ron Fletcher, explains how the Elmira group competed over the weekend.

“We had an amazing day on Friday and went into Saturday ranked third in the province. Unfortunately, we lost our last round, but we still finished 11th. We were quite happy about that and got picked by the sixth alliance and we had a really great showing. We were extremely happy with how everything went,” Fletcher said.

They earned their wild card spot by performing well consistently over competitions throughout the year. Each team earned points at the district competitions prior to the regional event in Mississauga last weekend. Heading into competition last weekend they were ranked 13th out of roughly 150 teams in Ontario. They recently changed to this structure, which Fletcher says is more geared to be fair to teams who consistently perform well.

Woodland Christian High School’s FIRST Robotics team, the CyberCavs, are off to St. Louis for the world championship after a successful competition in Mississauga over the Easter weekend. [Submitted]

“Often the way the picking system would go at a regional event, the third team might be a very weak team, but they got lucky enough to get picked. This is a little bit more fair especially because there are so many teams across Ontario, it helps to ensure that Ontario is sending the very best robotics teams to the championships in St. Louis.”

Fletcher says this year consistency has been key, and they seem to have found it. He also adds they’re very happy with how their robot has performed.

He says they’ll make a few changes to improve their gear cycle changes, but won’t tamper with it too much.

“There’s a few little things that we want to try to improve. There’s a few minor changes. You can’t do a whole lot to the robot anyways, because obviously most of it is in a bag and you have a very limited amount of time to work on it.”

They’re planning to send about 26 students from the team, as well as coaches as parents. Everyone is excited to make the trip – a first for many.

“Everyone was pretty ecstatic. This is a first for many of our team. The last time we went was in 2014. We’ve had a couple of years where we’ve been really close,” Fletcher said.

He notes parental and community support has been a great part of the team this year, from parents making the trip to watch competitions in Mississauga and Windsor, to local companies putting up thousands of dollars to make the program possible at EDSS.

Elmira District Secondary School’s FIRST Robotics team earned a wild card spot into the world championships after performing consistently well in district and regional competition. They haven’t been to worlds since 2014. This is the Elmira 4917 Drive Team and support crew: Aaron Crawford, Jacob Fralic, Sam Maier (Coach), Jon Martin, Hayden Fretz, Cam Sacrey, Jeff Talbot, and Tristan Devos. [Submitted]

“We are so thankful for the sponsors, Elmira Pet Products and Systematix are two of our big, local sponsors. Google is another sponsor that we have. We wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for the thousands of dollars that they put in.”

Not every team is lucky enough to have a huge group of mentors and local businesses willing to support their local high school’s FIRST Robotics Team.

“This is a very costly program, but the Elmira community never ceases to amaze me how they get behind something and they support it 100 per cent. It’s great that we enjoy that.”

And he says the students definitely reap the benefits.

“For me to see kids on our team that have pretty much changed the career they’re going to do and things they’re going to do just based on this experience alone, that for me is reward enough for all the work and why we do this.”