Kingston robotics team returns home from competition as world champions
Only 3 other Canadian teams have ever won at the FIRST Robotics Competition world championship
A team of 30 Kingston-area youth, ranging in age from grades 9 to 12, have come home with a new title: world champions.
The Limestone District School Board's Lake Effect Robotics team won the FIRST Robotics Competition world championship in Detroit last weekend after competing against 91,000 students from 27 countries during the 2018 season.
"The entire team was excited," Michelle Pitre said. Pitre is a Grade 12 student at Frontenac Secondary School and a veteran of the team.
The team got the chance to compete at the event organized by FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Canada after winning their district championship.
Not just a clunky mashup of metal
After receiving the challenge outline in January, the team began to design, construct, program and test its robot.
The result: a 68-kilogram cyborg standing 1.5 metres tall.
But this is not just some clunky mashup of metal.
All competing teams had to design a robot that could pick up and stack a series of cubes on one side of a balance scale, tipping it in the direction of its team. The robots also had to function independently for the first 15 seconds of the round.
Team member Jordan Cohen is also a Grade 12 student at Kingston Collegiate. He says building the robot took teamwork and strategic decision making.
"We had six weeks to build the robot. We built different parts of the robot and assembled it so it could do very basic things in the first few weeks, but then expanded our horizons in the later weeks and continually improved our design."
Robotics for everyone
The Lake Effect Robotics team was founded in 2016 after teams from Kingston Collegiate and Frontenac Secondary School merged to create team 2708. It is now a school board wide team with students from many of the local schools.
Together, the four teams collaborated and combined their skills and strengths to win the championship.
Kevin Wood is the leader of the Lake Effect Robotics team. This was his 10th year attending the FIRST Robotics world championships. Wood says only three other Canadian teams have ever won at the worlds and that this win was well deserved after so much hard work.
"The finals took place in Ford Field Stadium in front of a crowd of 40,000 spectators, so for the kids to be on that sort of a stage was so exciting for them."
Wood says oftentimes these students are on the robotics team for four or five years and that it's amazing for him to see them building on their teamwork and leadership skills, as well as watching their self confidence grow.
He says robotics are for anyone, and that organizations like FIRST Robotics aims to promote science and technology fields, and encourage young people to become leaders in the field.
"Most of the people that they look up to are sports figures and movie stars, and they were hoping to kind of raise the image of engineering and engineers and scientists to that kind of level so that people have something to look up to."
As one of the females on the team, Pitre agrees that robotics, engineering, and technology is open to all. She says the stigma surrounding girls and STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) shouldn't be a deterrent.
"Don't let the idea that you're not going to be able to do what others can stop you from being engaged and trying to do what you want to do. Believe in yourself and don't let others get you down."