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Connecting Our Communities

The people behind the robots

Woodland Christian High School CyberCavs strut their stuff at University of Waterloo


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The FIRST Robotics competitive season is now in full swing, with hundreds of secondary schools across the globe battling it out for a shot at next month’s Worlds. Locally, 32 teams competed over the weekend at the University of Waterloo Ontario district competition in one of a series of competitions in the province.

Rising up the ranks were the Woodland Christian High School CyberCavs, who placed fourth in the standings and qualified as the district event finalist.

From the moment the rules of the game are announced, teams have just six weeks to create their robots entirely from scratch. It’s an enormous task that requires the students to work in multi-disciplinary teams, collaborating on everything from designing and building their robot to organizing sponsorships, fundraising and budgeting.

We talked with some of the CyberCavs to find out what they learned being on the team, and what their plans are for the future.

Keenan Burke, Grade 12

Role: Programming, strategy and scouting.

“I was helping on the programming team, which is responsible for taking the physical robot and giving it the computer code such that it can actually move,” explains Burke. “And then at competitions too, along with Anna I am responsible for match strategy and scouting, which is essentially looking at your competition, looking at your robot and seeing how you can achieve the best results with what you have.”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned?

“As far as hard skills are concerned, definitely programming,” says Burke. “I think if in Grade 9 you told me I was going to be programming on the robotics team and making user interfaces and data transfer between laptops, I probably would have laughed and walked away.

“But as far as a softer, more general answer: Never be the smartest person in the room. We have so many mentors who are just so helpful,” he says. “It’s just an incredible resource and it’s a really good mentorship experience.”

What do you want to do after high school?

“I’ve been accepted into Waterloo for systems design engineering.”

Ian DeHaan, Grade 10

Role: Design and drive team.

“During the six week build period of the robot, when we got the game, I was heavily involved in the designing of the robot,” says DeHaan. “I did a bunch of 3D CAD in the build season; so just designing a robot, finding out what we wanted it to do, and how to do it.”

“And then at competitions, I’m one of the human players, so I’ll feed the game pieces in slots to the robot.”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned?

“It’s probably not only the people skills, but also the actual working with the robot, it’s really quite awesome. Because something like 3D AutoCAD… a lot of people don’t see that until university. And just learning all these skills in high school is something that I really enjoy.”

What do you want to do after high school?

“I’m hoping to go into the engineering field.”

Anna Fyfe, Grade 11

Role: Finance, scouting and strategy

“I’m in the finance department with one other mentor. So we have a very large budget that we spend every year,” says Fyfe. “And then I’m also in strategic planning.”

“This year one of our big projects is we did digital scouting. So Keenan programmed a python user interface, which is pretty cool, and then I did all the back end work, I made a SQL database and then pulled it all into Excel and then ran some analytics.”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned?

“The coolest thing that I’ve probably learned, well, there are two,” says Fyfe. “The technical [one is] I did a lot of data base work and pulling statistics from [FRC website] and they have an API. I figured how to code that into my Google Sheets, and then I ran analytics on all the teams. And that’s really cool – and I really l like my spreadsheets a lot!

“Another really cool thing I’ve learned about the team is having people backing you. I did alliance selection for Waterloo, and I was really scared. I was standing on the field and then I just looked up to the team and I waved and everyone waved back. Like I knew even though I walked down to the field by myself, the whole team was behind me.”

What do you want to do after high school?

“I want to go into management engineering at Waterloo.”

Anna Guenther, Grade 12

Role: Public relations and media

“I’m on the public relations side of things, so I don’t work as much hands-on with the robot,” says Guenther. “I’m trying to get our team out there to gather sponsors, parents, other students and try to recruit them either to sponsor us or just to get more recognition. Right now I’m actually working on a project and I’m doing a voice-over video for sponsors. I’m doing an intro video on what are team is and who we are.

“I’m also the media person. So at the competitions I am out there with a camera, I’m taking pictures and videos, and taking those, uploading them and posting to social media.”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned?

“I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask any kind of question,” says Guenther. “I remember I started in Grade 9 and now I’m in Grade 12, and I’ve grown a lot with it.

“Just seeing how much I’ve been able to grow my self confidence and be OK with asking questions… So yes, self confidence is a big thing.”

What do you want to do after high school?

“I’m going into kinesiology next year at Waterloo.”


Isaac Van Pelt, Grade 10

Role: Mechanical, drive team and strategy.

“I was doing mechanical during the build season, and then during the competition season I am one of the drivers for the robot,” says Van Pelt. “I also help with strategy before matches so that we as drivers know what’s going on before the match, and we can make sure we do everything and execute the perfect strategy and win.”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned?

“One thing I’ve really learned over my robotics career is basically all the teamwork that I’ve seen. It’s just amazing. This you have to have all hands on deck. Even in the departments, your mechanical can’t do anything without finance, or your programming can’t do anything without mechanical. Everybody needs to work together.”

What do you want to do after high school?

“After high school, I’m not quite sure. But I think maybe research related.”

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