University of Calgary

Competition gives students a crash course in robot design

UToday HomeApril 11, 2013

By Jennifer Sowa and Caralyn Macdonald

A high school student concentrates while competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition Western Canada RegionalA high school student concentrates while competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition Western Canada Regional at the Olympic Oval. Photo by Riley BrandtThe bleachers were packed with fans, families, teachers and industry leaders as 30 high school teams – including two from Mexico and one from Brazil – competed in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Western Canada Regional at the Olympic Oval on April 4-6.

Team 1332 from Ontario and teams 4334 and 4633 from Alberta advanced to the World Championships in St. Louis, Missouri at the end of the month.

Teams built their robots in six weeks and programmed them to perform tasks such as throwing Frisbees and climbing pyramids. The robots were machined, welded, soldered and sawed by students who had never used power tools in their lives before. The students learned about teamwork and problem solving along with design, 3D modeling and shop skills.

The Schulich School of Engineering was the lead sponsor of the event and Dean Guy Gendron was the first to address the crowd at the opening ceremonies.

“So many of our graduates have combined their engineering skills with their passions to make a difference in the world. You, too, can make a difference,” he said. “A Schulich Engineering degree is a strong foundation that can empower you to do almost anything. The sky is the limit.”

Gendron presented three of the top-achieving competitors with scholarships worth $2,000 each to attend the Schulich School of Engineering. The winners were Mahta Samani, Kaylyn Schnell, and Joel Gallant.

In addition to the winners who advance to the world finals, several other teams were recognized for design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship and partnerships between schools, businesses and communities.

“Each team clearly demonstrated teamwork, professionalism and strategic thinking in solving the competition’s challenges,” said Blair Gallant, director of the FIRST Robotics Western Region.

“The participation of 30 teams the inaugural year was tremendous. The general public, students, school groups, community members and professional team mentors filled the stands and added to the infectious energy. We’re looking forward to next year and making it even bigger!”

This was the first time the competition was held in Western Canada. The FIRST Robotics competitions have been operating in Eastern Canada and the United States for several years to cultivate an interest in science and engineering.


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