St. Fran­cis stu­dents show strong sports­man­ship

Ro­bot­ics team earns top award at provin­cial com­pe­ti­tion

The Compass - - OPINION - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

Lead­ing off with a cheer that could be heard the whole way down the up­stairs cor­ri­dor of St. Fran­cis, the Robo Dogs led a demon­stra­tion of the team’s award­win­ning ro­bot on Tues­day, Dec. 16.

“Our ro­bot is bet­ter than your mom’s home­made bread,” the en­thu­si­as­tic team belted out, with a gig­gle.

The group of nine stu­dents — eight girls and one boy rep­re­sent­ing grades 6 through 8 — re­turned from a provin­cial Skills Canada com­pe­ti­tion a week prior, tak­ing home the top prize for Lego Ro­bot­ics.

By claim­ing gold in the F.I.R.S.T Lego League Com­pe­ti­tion, St. Fran­cis earned the right to com­pete at the 2015 F.I.R.S.T World Fes­ti­val in St. Louis, Mis­souri.

If the group de­cides to go, it will cost in the vicin­ity of $20,000 for stu­dents and staff spon­sors to at­tend. A decision will be made in the new year.

Since 2002, the school has at­tended com­pe­ti­tions provin­cially and in the United States in­volv­ing some 20,000 other kids.

Tech­nol­ogy teacher Norm Lit­tle­john and cus­to­dian Randy Dob­bin have been men­tors for the ro­bot­ics team for years.

Ev­ery year, the team is en­thu­si­as­tic. But this year, Lit­tle­john ex­plained, the team was a crowd favourite at the com­pe­ti­tion be­cause of their sports­man­ship and in­ter­ac­tion. They even kept the crowd en­er­getic by cheer­ing on other teams, and danc­ing around the venue. It was so en­ter­tain­ing, some peo­ple lost track of time.

“One of the moms asked what time they were com­pet­ing so she could run to the mall. She never made it there,” Lit­tle­john laughed.

The team was the only one to bring along a poster board with their names, pho­tos and short de­scrip­tions about them­selves on it. They also brought the school flag.

In­for­ma­tive bunch

This year, the team took part in four sep­a­rate parts of com­pe­ti­tion. One of its more unique ef­forts left many in­trigued — the in­ter­ac­tive class­room.

Although schools are now equipped with in­ter­ac­tive white­boards and some have tablets, the team brain­stormed to think of ways to get stu­dents more in­ter­ested in class­room learn­ing.

“The in­ter­ac­tive class­room would be a bet­ter way for stu­dents to learn,” said Hope Fin­layson. “There would be (in­ter­ac­tive white­boards) on all the walls and the ceil­ing. It would re­ally bring you into the en­vi­ron­ment you’re learn­ing about.”

Keira Legge, the youngest mem­ber of the team, ex­plained how ben­e­fi­cial it would be to have a sci­ence class inside the in­ter­ac­tive class­room. She said ac­tive touch op­tions on the walls and be­ing sur­rounded by the items in 3D would en­hance the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Team mem­ber Madi­son Squires sug­gests such a class­room would cost ap­prox­i­mately $148,000. Each wall would need eight boards, and com­puter pro­grams would also need to be cre­ated.

The team re­ceived sec­ond-place hon­ours for its in­ter­ac­tive class­room pre­sen­ta­tion.

Another part of the com­pe­ti­tion was the ro­bot­ics por­tion, where a com­puter pro­grammed Lego ro­bot named Gad­get ma­neu­vered through an ob­sta­cle course and han­dled dif­fer­ent tasks along the way, like throw­ing a ball and pick­ing up a ring.

Mitchell Peach and Kyla Mercer gave the demon­stra­tion, ex­plain­ing what the ro­bot did through­out.

The group took first over­all in the ro­bot­ics por­tion, which led to their top-place fin­ish in the over­all com­pe­ti­tion.

Dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests and per­son­al­i­ties

Most of the group loved to talk, but more no­tice­ably, each un­der­stood ev­ery­thing in their project, from how to pro­gram the ro­bot to the de­tails of the in­ter­ac­tive class­room.

The team mem­bers ap­pear to be in­vested in the project and seem­ingly thrive off their suc­cess.

Hope and Kiera were very an­i­mated and en­er­getic. Kyla was more re­served.

Emily Gal­way was knowl­edge­able, while Madi­son spoke very pas­sion­ately.

Katie Shute did great han­dling the in­ter­ac­tive class­room demon­stra­tion and Abi­gail Chafe was quiet, but in­formed.

Emma Mercer was very friendly and Mitchell was com­fort­able as he ex­plained the tech­ni­cal parts of the demon­stra­tion.

Gath­ered around at the end, each stu­dent was asked what he or she wanted to be when they grew up.

An­swers var­ied from a doggy day­care owner to to en­gi­neer. Mitchell ad­mit­ted he’d like to be Bat­man — Bruce Wayne had some awe­some gad­gets. The in­ter­ests were as dif­fer­ent as their per­son­al­i­ties.

But th­ese dif­fer­ences al­lowed for cre­ativ­ity to flour­ish, and they were able to cre­ate a ro­bot, put to­gether a mar­ket­ing strat­egy for an in­ter­ac­tive class­room and make friends along the way.

“Our ro­bot is bet­ter than your mom’s home­made bread.” — St. Fran­cis Robo Dogs

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Com­pass

The St. Fran­cis Robo Dogs team is made up of nine stu­dents from grades 6 to 8 and two staff spon­sors. Mem­bers are, from left, Norm Lit­tle­john, Mitchell Peach, Kyla Mercer, Madi­son Squires, Abi­gail Squires, Kiera Legge, Hope Fin­layson, Katie Shute, Emma Mercer, Emily Gal­way and Randy Dob­bin.

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