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Adding the human touch to a high-tech undertaking

The members of the EDSS robotics team recognized by their peers for their outstanding contributions. Surrounding the team’s robot are award winners Alexis Windatt, Zoë Peev, Cameron Beaudoin-Hayes, Matt Kordasiewicz, Blake Roemer and Matt Dunn. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

The EDSS robotics team celebrated the end of their stellar season by recognizing the contributions of its star members. Hosting an awards ceremony last week, the finalists at this year’s First Robotics World Championships voted on their fellow team members for a suite of awards in different categories.

Travelling to Detroit last month for the world championships, the EDSS team climbed all the way to the coveted Einstein round of the tournament, pitting them against the best of the best from among 400 teams.

“It was a crazy awesome experience to make it that far,” said Blake Roemer, a driver on the team who was voted by his peers for the Lancelot Leadership Award. The Lancelot Award is the closest the team has to an MVP award, and it’s rare for a Grade 10 student like Roemer to be selected. “Einstein’s, it’s basically what every team aspires to get to at the end of each year.”

While Roemer is a newcomer to the team, Cameron Beaudoin-Hayes has been around since the beginning. In his fifth year at EDSS, Beaudoin-Hayes joined the team when it first started, and this year was the winner of the Entrepreneurship Award.

To see the team go from humble roots to a world-class competitor has been quite an experience for him.

“It’s fascinating honestly. Just knowing that you’ve become a part of something that’s grown so big is overwhelming almost,” he said. Next year, Beaudoin-Hayes will be heading to post-secondary – though he says he would join the robotics team again if he could.

“Despite having a small school, we have a lot of people interested in the team,” he added. “I think our earlier successes helped to make ourselves recognized in the school, which gets a lot of interest from students.”

The students can’t recommend the experience of the robotics team enough, and for Matt Kordasiewicz, winner of this year’s Innovation Award, he encourages everyone to at least give it a try.

“Even if you don’t plan on joining the team for the main season, just try it out in the off-season and just see if you’re interested,” he said.

While the competition itself kicks off in January, the robotics team spends months before on training in everything from electronics to programming to various aspects of business and engineering. The training period is an excellent opportunity for newcomers to get a feel for the various roles on the team without the pressure of competing.

For Alexis Windatt, winner of the Gracious Professional award, her years on the team have allowed her to wear a number of different hats, from the business side to the engineering. She credits the experience with helping her learn an array of real-world skills.

“I learned a lot,” she noted. “I think a lot of it comes from interacting with different people, both my teammates and people from other teams, and I also get to interact with the businesses that sponsor our team. So it’s really interesting there.”

Edging the team on to victory was Matt Dunn, who was the winner of this year’s Inspiration Award, while Zoë Peev was chosen for the Rookie Inspiration Award.

Looking back at their season, the award winners are unequivocally happy with the experience. Besides reaching Einstein level success at the world championship, the Elmira team was also the third ranking team in Ontario, and took first-place at both of their district-level competitions in Waterloo and North Bay.

“I don’t think there’s been anybody on the team who says they wish they hadn’t joined,” said Beaudoin-Hayes.

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