'It means a whole lot to me': Indigenous-led robotics team headed to international competition
Team Canada will travel to Dubai to compete from Oct. 24 to 27
After months of crafting, fine-tuning, experimenting and refining, a group of Canadian youth are getting set to showcase their robotic creations at an international competition in Dubai.
The team, which goes by the name Gearhead 12265, is made up of a majority Indigenous members — the result of an initiative by the organization IndigeSTEAM.
"We want to bring [Indigenous youth] into STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), because that's where our future is, that's where the youth's future is," said Sheila Norris with IndigeSTEAM. "The traditional side of Indigenous culture can go together so they can see the technology side and the culture side together."
The robotics competition, known as FIRST Global Challenge, runs Oct. 24 to 27 and will feature entrants from 193 countries.
Rafe Vadnais is one member of Gearhead 12265, primarily working to build some of the main parts of the robot.
"It means a whole lot to me," he said. "I haven't really been included in things like these."
Shantel Tallow, Vadnais' mother, said working on the project has taught her son knowledge, patience and teamwork.
"This has really built up his self-esteem," Tallow said. "He was able to use his math and science to go forward in this robotics program."
Vadnais said he was excited for the upcoming trip to the United Arab Emirates.
"I'm pretty excited for that. I'm going to be travelling across the world for the robotics competition," he said. "That just excites me to be part of this."
Eight students, including Vadnais, make up the Gearhead 12265 team. Five of the group members are Indigenous.
Norris said the team has been working on their entry since July.
"[The entrants] will be competing as three nations and simulating cleaning up the oceans," Norris said. "We are just tweaking the different issues before we go to the competition."
She said working in STEM gave participating youth a chance to experience a different part of the world.
"I think they bring different ways of looking at things more on a global or a complete look, because of the culture and what they've been taught by their elders," she said. "They can look at things in more of a full circle."