Biz/TechHeadlinesHumber hosts its FIRST robotics competition

druvsareenMarch 11, 201914 min

Raymond Brooks, Druv Sareen and Patrick Simpson, Biz-Tech Reporters

High school students from across Ontario gathered at Humber’s North campus this weekend to showcase the future of robotics.

Humber partnered up with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) to host the college’s debut high-school robotics competition.

After two days of heated competition and qualifying rounds, the alliance of Team Simbiotics, from Governor Simcoe Secondary School at St. Catharine, Team SWAT, from St. Milred’s-Lightbourn girl’s school in Oakville, and Team DAVE, from St. David Secondary Catholic School in Waterloo, won the final round 2-0 taking the regional tournament.

Teams had six weeks to design and build a robot to specification. The competition changes events and themes each year, with this year’s focus on outer space.

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“In this particular case , they have cargo that they have to put in either the rocket ship or the cargo ships and the cargo is big orange balls,” said Paul Keenan, a veteran FIRST Robotics coach and mentor.

“They have big round discs that are called patch panels and they’ve got to put them in where the big gaping round holes are,” Keenan said. “There’s always an end game and what they have to do is they have to try to climb up on to one of three platforms which are called the habitats.”

There are two alliances in every event, with three robots on the red team and three on the blue team. These alliances receive points for securing cargo, hatches and placing themselves and teammates on their raised habitats.

Eight alliances battled it out for the top spot after several qualifying rounds on Saturday.

FIRST relies on volunteers to help put on these events, which sometimes entails enlisting help from friends and family.

Sandy Connors has been volunteering at events for the last two years, after her son’s experience at FIRST Robotics.

“My son is very introverted, he came to a robotics competition last year and he was one of the ones dancing out front, which was something he would never do. It’s outside of his comfort zone,” Connors said. “This has just built up so much confidence in him that it’s made me want to get more involved to help”.

Connors stresses FIRST events are not like other sports or games.

“They collaborate with each other, they cheer with each other, it’s not your regular competition, where you’re, like, kill the other opponent,” she said

These sentiments are shared by volunteers and competing teams.

Amy Darling of Team SWAT prepares her robot for competition on March 9, 2018, at the FIRST robotics event at Humber College North campus. (Druv Sareen)

Alexandra Hon, captain of  the finalist team SWAT, said she values the social experience at FIRST events.

“Everyone brings different things to the table and it’s really interesting to hear about everyone’s story,” she said. “The Ontario district is small enough that you get to know everyone’s face and you can create some really close friends like I have here.”

This sense of community is not unique to team SWAT.

Arnav Mehrotra, part of the victorious team Simbiotics, spent most of the competition helping others.

“I’ve been going around and helping other teams with their coding problems and I find that it’s pretty fun because I get to help other teams and I also get to learn a bit more about programming,” he said.

Even for the teams that didn’t win there is a strong sense of accomplishment. Srinjoy Choudhury was part of the team from Bill Hogarth Secondary School, they won the award for a successful rookie season.

Choudhury is proud of his team’s accomplishments.

“I feel amazing honestly. I mean we feel like it was some parts luck with all the other parts hard work,” Choudhury said.