Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Congratulations to the Assumption Robotics Team

Congratulations to the Assumption Robotics Team. Read the article from the Windsor Star below:

Apr 01, 2013 - 12:57 PM EDT
Last Updated: Apr 02, 2013 - 11:31 AM EDT

It took a lot of brains and a bit of (robot) brawn to get a local rookie robotics team to the top.

Assumption College Catholic high school’s robotics team is headed to the world championships at the end of the month after making it to the finals at the FIRST robotics competition in Mississauga last weekend.

“To make it to the finals, we pretty much stunned the entire crowd and all the other teams,” said team captain Braidon Chor, a 17-year-old student in grade 12. “We weren’t expecting to get very far. We expected to get to maybe one qualification round.”

Instead, the rookie team with comparatively scarce tools and building materials beat 40-odd other teams. Mark Gillis, the head of technological studies at Assumption, said the team received a lot of help and support from the Sandwich Secondary School team – veterans in the robotics competition circuit – who shared their tools and expertise with the Assumption students.

Students from Assumption College Catholic High School piloting their robot at the FIRST robotics competition in Mississauga this past weekend (Photo: Courtesy Mike Drouillard)

It’s the first year Assumption competed. The other rookie Windsor teams included Maranatha Christian Academy and St. Anne Catholic high school.

Gillis said the Assumption team decided to focus on strategy and build a simple, sturdy robot that other teams would see as an asset. Part of the challenge involves teaming up with other robots and piloting them to throw frisbees across to opponents’ sides of the arena.

“Our strategy was basically to go defence,” Gillis said.

The Assumption robot, with its peacock-like net, was designed to block oncoming frisbees. After seeing it in action, two of the top teams chose Assumption to form their trio in the frisbee challenge, Gillis said.

About 3,000 high schools worldwide compete in FIRST every year. They have to build a robot that can perform a complex task such as shooting frisbees or climbing a 10-foot steel pyramid.

The robotics teams from St Anne’s high school (bottom right) and Sandwich high school (in the orange shirts) at the FIRST regional robotics competition (Photo: Courtesy Mike Drouillard)

“There’s a lot of technical things learned,” Gillis said. Building the robot teaches students about software programming, construction, metals and materials, circuits, gears, transmission and sensors.

Now, the Assumption team have to come up with $5,000 as quickly as possible to pay their way to St. Louis, Missouri, for the competition on April 24 to 27.

Irek Kusmierczyk, the project manager at WEtech Alliance, which helped establish the Assumption team, said this is where local businesses — many of which are involved in robotics, automation and manufacturing — can step in and support the next generation of engineers, scientists and computer experts.

Assumption, Maranatha and St. Anne’s each got a $5,300 grant from the provincial and federal governments this year to cover the costs of attending the regional championships in Mississauga.

Kusmierczyk said that while it may seem like an expensive extra-curricular pursuit, participating in robotics teams increases a student’s probability of going to college or university and pursuing studies in fields like engineering and science.

There are four high schools in Windsor-Essex with robotics teams and Kusmierczyk said WEtech wants to expand that number to eight or ten for next year.”We have a good mix,” Kusmierczyk said, referring to how there are private, public and separate schools now participating in FIRST. (Sandwich Secondary, which has had a robotics team for more than a decade, won the regional championship in Tennessee last year.)

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The competition is sponsored by companies such as Boeing, Ford, Chrysler, and Google.

Chor said he was blown away by the big corporate names behind the competition. For someone serious about entering the field, he said it was a great way to learn a lot and make contacts.

“I didn’t expect it to be that huge, that big of a deal,” Chor said. “You can make a lot of friends there. They like the same things you do – robots, technology, that kind of thing.”

With files from Claire Brownell

bfantoni@windsorstar.com or follow me on Twitter @bfantoni