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Pair of local highschools qualify for robotics championship in Detroit


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Once more, the province’s high school robotics teams brought out their creations for another bout in the arena last weekend, but this time with the stakes raised significantly.

A total of 66 teams competed in the FIRST Ontario Provincial Championships, held at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, including two contenders from Woolwich. Elmira District Secondary School and Woodland Christian High School met their share of challenges over the four day event, but came through with a ticket to the world championship in Detroit, which kicks off this week.

“We performed probably not as great as maybe we had expected,” noted Andrew Veldhuis, a mentor with the Woodland robotics team, the CyberCavs. “We did rank 10th out 40 in our division, which wasn’t too bad. We thought we could do better but tenth isn’t anything to complain about, really.”

Elmira, meanwhile, ranked one spot higher in ninth place but soon found trouble in the playoffs, in the form of the CyberCavs, no less.

“We ended up ninth in our division, which was respectable, but then we were chosen to be part of the third alliance [and] we lost in the quarter-finals. So the first round of the playoffs,” said Barbara Gaudet, a team coach and teacher at EDSS.

“The upside to that was we lost against the CyberCavs and the [Kitchener Waterloo Youth] Rebels, so two other Waterloo-Wellington teams.”

For the playoffs, teams must form into alliances of three; and once again, the CyberCavs and Elmira’s team, Sir Lancerbot, found themselves on opposite ends of the arena.

Sir Lancerbot teamed up with Burlington Central High School and Craig Kielburger in Milton. But trio was ultimately knocked out of contention by the CyberCavs, who this year found themselves joining in familiar company.

“What was interesting with our alliance is that 2702 [Kitchener Waterloo Youth Robotics], our captains who picked us, they were our mentor team way back in 2013. And when we picked the Owen Sound team, our team had mentored their team. So it was a bit of a grandfather, father, son kind of thing going on,” said Veldhuis.

The Woodland CyberCavs’ alliance bested Elmira’s, advancing to the semi-finals before they finally met their match and were eliminated.

“In eliminations in quarter-finals, we were alliance six against alliance three. Alliance three actually had Elmira,” said Veldhuis. “We actually did manage to beat them. We lost in semis, but that gave us easily enough points to qualify for worlds.

“That was the biggest thing for me,” he added. “Qualifications were a bit rough for us. We were a little unsure how the rest of it was going to go. But the alliance we ended up with was a whole lot of fun, it turned out way better than we expected. So it was a strong finish for our team.”

Both teams did more than enough to earn themselves a straight shot to the World Championships, with the EDSS contingent departing for the Detroit-based competition on Wednesday. The Lancerbots were also singled out at the provincials for the Entrepreneurship Award, given in recognition of the business and financial sides of the team that make building an expensive robot even possible.

By the end of the provincials, the Sir Lancerbots ranked 17th out of 173 in Ontario, while the CyberCavs ranked 12th overall.

“Which is really good,” said  Veldhuis. “So I think we’re pretty pleased with how it ended.”

The world championships in Detroit began April 24 and runs through Saturday.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Gaudet of the EDSS team, which will be playing in the Tesla Division at the competition. “We think that we have a very good opportunity in that division, from what we can tell. So we’re very excited.”

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