EDSS ro­bot­ics team takes gold

Sir Lancer­bot in tow, the team is off to On­tario District Cham­pi­onship in Mis­sis­sauga

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - WHIT­NEY NEIL­SON

A FIRST-PLACE FIN­ISH IN Wind­sor over the week­end means the Elmira District Sec­ondary School FIRST ro­bot­ics team is off to the On­tario District Cham­pi­onship.

They and their robot – Sir Lancer­bot – will com­pete at the Her­shey Cen­tre in Mis­sis­sauga from Apr. 12-15.

They com­peted at the Univer­sity of Water­loo two weeks ago and they made it to the semi­fi­nals out of 28 teams. The team that knocked them out ended up win­ning the whole com­pe­ti­tion. They think if they had a dif­fer­ent draw they might have been able to win that one too.

“I al­ways say there’s an el­e­ment of luck in­volved a lit­tle bit be­cause it de­pends who you’re matched up with,” said Ron Fletcher, one of the team’s four coaches, about the al­liance as­pect of the com­pe­ti­tion.

The FIRST (For In­spi­ra­tion and Recog­ni­tion of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy) model in On­tario also re­cently changed.

It used to be if they won a re­gional com­pe­ti­tion, like they did in Wind­sor, they would be au­to­mat­i­cally in the worlds com­pe­ti­tion in St. Louis. But now be­cause there are so many teams in On­tario – close to 200 – the top 60 teams go on to the district cham­pi­onship, to de­ter­mine who goes on to worlds.

“There are a num­ber of very good teams in Water­loo Re­gion and I ex­pect that they’re go­ing to be there. From that 60, the top 28 will go on to worlds,” Fletcher said.

Matthew Mur­ray notes they’ve been to worlds be­fore. In 2014 they re­ceived the rookie all-star award which sent them to worlds. At worlds, they re­ceived the rookie all-star award again, as well as all awards avail­able to a rookie team.

“That was a pretty big deal to win it at worlds,” Fletcher said.

Their robot is the re­sult of some 30 stu­dents on the team, who worked on ev­ery­thing from de­sign, to soft­ware, to se­cur­ing spon­sors.

Right now their robot is in a sealed bag. They have a lim­ited num­ber of hours they’re al­lowed to spend fix­ing up the robot for the district cham­pi­onship.

“We weren’t com­pletely happy with the way our robot was run­ning at the be­gin­ning of the match, and it has to drive it­self. So we’re go­ing to work on tun­ing that a bit bet­ter on our way to the next com­pe­ti­tion so we can do bet­ter,” said Carson Cass.

Ja­cob Fralic ex­plains at the be­gin­ning of the com­pe­ti­tion in Wind­sor, it was up in the air of how they’d do. Some­times the un­ex­pected can hap­pen, things you can’t pre­pare for.

“But as the com­pe­ti­tion went on and we saw how well we were per­form­ing and the strength that the other teams had we thought we had a pretty good chance of win­ning. And then it got re­ally ce­mented when we got into an al­liance with team 610 for the fi­nal round, which was an­other re­ally strong team,” Fralic said.

Fletcher says the un­pre­dictabil­ity as­pect of the com­pe­ti­tion is a good life les­son for the stu­dents as well. In­stead of say­ing the robot will do this or that, they say they hope it will be able to per­form cer­tain func­tions.

“Often we’d say we hope to do this and we think we can do this. But at the end of the day, ma­chines are fal­li­ble. Some­body runs into you and in­ad­ver­tently some­how a breaker gets pushed and we lose power at the end of the match and we’re stuck, we’re done, and who can ex­plain that or who could fore­see that? And so there is an el­e­ment of learn­ing even I find like where you are in a sit­u­a­tion where you can’t just say we’re go­ing to do this or the robot’s go­ing to do this,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher ex­plains a sit­u­a­tion that they couldn’t pre­pare for ac­tu­ally did hap­pen to them when they got hung up on an­other team’s robot.

“We lit­er­ally burned through a set of tires. And the build crew had this crazy – it felt like NASCAR – where we had to do this pit stop, we had to change tires and the thing’s back to the pit and bod­ies are ev­ery­where and the wrenches are out and there’s only so much room and Ja­cob’s be­ing thrown out of the pit, so there’s this crazy chaos that hap­pens, high pres­sure in a way,” Fletcher said.

Com­pe­ti­tion is much more in­tense than you might ex­pect

see­ing as it’s based around ro­bots. Fletcher re­mem­bers a cou­ple years ago one of the stu­dents’ mom said she’d never cheered so loud and been so in­vested in a piece of ma­chin­ery.

“It’s a very elec­tric at­mos­phere, ex­tremely sat­is­fy­ing, some­times ex­tremely stress­ful and it does teach again how to re­spond in a pres­sure sit­u­a­tion,” Fletcher said.

He adds a big part of what FIRST wants to do is teach stu­dents to be global cit­i­zens. The EDSS ro­bot­ics team is in­volved with the Ki­wa­nis food drive ev­ery year, for ex­am­ple. They’ve also been able to learn from a va­ri­ety of lo­cal busi­nesses and in­dus­try ex­perts.

“It also brings busi­ness in the com­mu­nity into the school. So you’ve got about 20 dif­fer­ent men­tors from soft­ware to de­sign to par­ents come in and help th­ese guys build bumpers. It re­ally brings the com­mu­nity into the school as well,” Fletcher said.

Aaron Craw­ford is the driver of the team’s robot and says he en­joys work­ing hard to help the team per­form well.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s very re­ward­ing and you learn great new skills with com­mu­ni­cat­ing with other teams,” Craw­ford said.

The stu­dents agree if they con­tinue to per­form as well as they did in Wind­sor, there’s a good chance they’ll make it to worlds.

“It was very re­ward­ing for me as a coach, and I think for many on the team, to get that win that you know you’ve worked hard for, and you reach that level of suc­cess. I think it also puts the team a lit­tle bit on the radar too within the FIRST com­mu­nity,” said Fletcher

[WHIT­NEY NEIL­SON / THE OB­SERVER]

EDSS had 33 stu­dents com­pete in Skills Canada com­pe­ti­tion this year. Seven­teen of them won gold, sil­ver or bronze medals at re­gional com­pe­ti­tion. The seven gold medal­ists will par­tic­i­pate at provin­cial com­pe­ti­tions in Toronto May 1-3. Some of them stopped for a photo dur­ing their weekly meet­ing on Tues­day. Back row: Seth Horst, Austin Martin, Matthew Frey, Chris Wray, Ethan Shantz. Front row: Con­nor Red­mond, Alex DeVore, Parker Win­field, Shannon Met­zger, Con­nor Ger­ber, Walker Schott, Quinn Young, Shawn­tanna Atkin­son, Randy Dyck, Bar­bara Gaudet. The gold medal­ists ad­vanc­ing to provin­cials are Con­nor Ger­ber, Walker Schott, Hai­ley Arm­strong, Quinn Young, Shawn­tanna Atkin­son, Chad Martin and Shannon Met­zger.

[WHIT­NEY NEIL­SON / THE OB­SERVER]

The EDSS Ro­bot­ics team earned gold at com­pe­ti­tion in Wind­sor over the week­end. They’re off to Mis­sis­sauga over the Easter hol­i­days with the hopes of do­ing well enough to ad­vance to worlds in St. Louis. Some of the Grade 12 stu­dents on the team showed off their ban­ner and medals on Tues­day. From left: Cameron Beau­doin-Hayes, Jon Martin, Melissa Chin­nick, Aaron Craw­ford, Carson Cass, Tris­tan DeVos, Matthew Mur­ray and Ja­cob Fralic.

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