Biz/TechTeams travel the distance for Humber FIRST robotics tournament

Raymond BrooksMarch 11, 20197 min

Raymond Brooks, Biz-Tech Reporter

Distance was no obstacle for the young engineers at Humber’s North Campus last weekend.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) hosts Robotics competitions across Canada and the U.S.

Emily Fairfield (left) and Gabrielle Hebert (right) of the Techno Trojans react to their robot toppling during a heated qualifying match during the FIRST robotics competition at Humber College North campus on March 9, 2019. (Druv Sareen)

Robotics teams came from as far as Waterloo, Thunder Bay and Michigan to compete in the Ontario division event at Humber College.

One of the parents from Waterloo’s Team DAVE, Wesley Blankspoor, said that a lot of good happens behind the scenes.

“The chairman’s awards and others like the education component, the community outreach, engagement with STEM and student development. That means that’s an important part of the event that’s not front and center, but it is awarded and emphasized at the end of the day,” said Blankspoor.

From left, Coach Joe Hevert, Megan Capaldi, Gabrielle Hevert, and Josh Shane pose for a team photo during the FIRST robotics event at Humber College North campus on March 8, 2019. (Raymond Brooks)

The farthest traveled team was the Techno Trojans from Fruitport High School, in Fruitport, Mich., about 305 kilometres west of Detroit.

“Our teams are similar because all students are the same ages, learning the very same things, and facing the very same challenges,” said Joe Hevert, a veteran of FIRST robotics mentor and the Trojan’s six-year coach.

He said the team is well recognized and supported by 42 sponsors and 18 regular mentors.

“We are very close to a one to one ratio between mentor and student,” Hevert said.

From left, Coach Nick Wickman, Jordan Lunn, Alistair Fuzzen and Nate Heerema adjust their robot between rounds of competition at Humber College North campus on March 9, 2019. (Druv Sareen)

The Trojans finished with a score of five wins and seven losses, and obtained the Jack Kamen Imagery Award.

Regardless of the results, the event managed to be collaborative and competitive by sorting teams into alliances to compete with total strangers and uniquely designed machines.

Another far-off team was Tiger Robotics from Thunder Bay’s Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute, which traveled to experience their very first competition.

From left, Brandon Refuhs, Nate Heerema, coach Nick Wickman, Jordan Lunn and Alistair Fuzzen show off robot at the FIRST robotics event at Humber College North campus on March 10, 2019. (Raymond Brooks)

Nick Wickman, the head coach of the team, said the four-student group arrived to challenge the competition, learn networking skills, and get a chance to meet new people.

“We are kind of limited by distance and we’re stuck having to be resourceful, and we have more limitations for sponsorship and getting community members involved,” Wickman said.