Pair of Wool­wich teams head­ing to FIRST Robotics World Cham­pi­onships

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS -

LIV­ING UP TO THE Water­loo Re­gion’s rep­u­ta­tion as a cen­tre of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, two high school teams from Wool­wich Town­ship held their own at this week­end’s FIRST Robotics pro­vin­cial com­pe­ti­tion.

EDSS and Wood­land Chris­tian High School both qual­i­fied for the world level First Robotics Cham­pi­onships in Detroit next week, while EDSS emerged as the On­tario Tech­nol­ogy Di­vi­sion champs.

For EDSS’ Team 4917, Sir Lancer­bot, the sea­son has been a tremen­dous suc­cess thus far. The team swept the dis­trict level com­pe­ti­tions in Water­loo and North Bay ear­lier in the sea­son, tak­ing first place in both. And, af­ter their strong show­ing at the On­tario con­test, which was held over the week­end at the Her­shey Cen­tre in Mis­sis­sauga, the team is now ranked in third place in the prov­ince.

Not to be out­done, the com­par­a­tively smaller Wood­land Chris­tian High School, Team 4678, have nonethe­less had a big im­pact on the robotics scene as well, rank­ing 19th in the prov­ince. Over the sea­son, the Cy­berCavs made the semi-fi­nals of ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion they com­peted in all the way into the provin­cials, notes the school’s prin­ci­pal John VanPelt.

“The kids are re­ally happy with the way things have gone,” he said. “This has been a de­vel­op­ing pro­gram and a fair amount of en­ergy has been put into it, and we’ve seen quite ex­cit­ing re­sults over the last num­ber of years as well.”

Just com­pet­ing in the tour­na­ment, let alone mak­ing it to the world cham­pi­onships, is a tremen­dous feat as teams of high school stu­dents are granted just six weeks to de­sign and build a fully fledged ro­bot.

The ma­chine has to be able to per­form flaw­lessly at the com­pe­ti­tions in a wide range of com­plex tasks, from lift­ing and ar­rang­ing boxes to ma­nip­u­lat­ing levers, to a climb por­tion that sees the 100-pound robots grab onto a ledge and hoist it­self into the air. The robots are mostly re­mote con­trolled, but the teams are also tasked with mak­ing their cre­ations be­have com­pletely au­tonomously dur­ing cer­tain sec­tions of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“There’s a lot of learn­ing that goes into it,” noted VanPelt. “You’re look­ing at un­der­stand­ing de­sign prin­ci­ples. You’re look­ing at un­der­stand­ing the ba­sics of pro­gram­ming, of build­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing. But there’s a whole host of softer skills like col­lab­o­ra­tion, prob­lem-solv­ing, crit­i­cal think­ing, that go

into this as well.”

For EDSS coach Ron Fletcher, the change in stu­dents is marked as they start from scratch and see their ideas built from the ground up.

“I think first of all it re­ally builds a cer­tain amount of con­fi­dence,” said Fletcher. “It also is some­thing where there’s a real sense of sat­is­fac­tion that we did some­thing. We started with a plan, we set ob­jec­tives and we met those ob­jec­tives. And it’s ex­cit­ing when they come to fruition.”

He added, “There’s a lot of ma­tur­ing that hap­pens in the process and you do see a lot of that hap­pen with team mem­bers. We’ve got a lot of first-year mem­bers on the team this year as well, so to have an ex­pe­ri­ence like this for a first­time com­pe­ti­tion I think, for them, there’s that sense of, ‘wow, we had no idea.’”

Of course, both teams are ex­cited too to be trav­el­ling to the Detroit com­pe­ti­tion, which is run­ning from April 25 to 28 and will be host to al­most 400 teams.

It was ul­ti­mately the kids that did the leg­work, but Fletcher has to ex­tend his grat­i­tude to the en­tire com­mu­nity for help­ing get them there. “A huge, huge thank you to the com­mu­nity and so many of our lo­cal spon­sors that sup­port the team.”

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