While students swarm out of Oak Bay High and head for home, inside two teams hover over a pair of robots, computer terminals and cell phones as they prepare for battle.
“We put together, design, program and test robots to complete challenges,” explains Seth Winton, a Grade 11 student at Oak Bay High.
The school is in its third year offering a robotics course, but it is the first year they have formed robotics teams for competition. Starting with one team at the beginning of the season, they now have two heading for championships.
“We had another gift of a kit, so we broke up the teams and now we run two robots,” said teacher Jeff Laird. With hopes of growing the program, about 10 youth make up the two rookie teams this year. They’ve competed twice, with a final set for Feb. 17.
— Melanie Paas (@Mpaas10) January 25, 2018
“Every time we go to one of these league meets or a meet-up we look at other robots and see how they’ve done it. The kids are getting a lot of ideas,” Laird said. “The kids are having a lot of fun and learning a lot. It’s really exciting when you get 10 or 12 other teams competing.”
The team improves each time, finishing eighth of eight in the first competition and fifth and eighth in a field of 13 during the second competition, says Sophia Jefferson, a Grade 11 student.
“We’ve been trying to figure everything out and get some robots going,” Sophia says. “It’s a pretty complicated game and you play it with a bunch of other robots. You have to do a bunch of tasks to get points and the team with the most points wins.”
“The first 30 seconds is autonomous and then the last two minutes you can control it with remote control,” explains Kalem Jorgensen, a Grade 10 student. “So you have to make four or five different programs for each team and each orientation.”
During the autonomous period, robots operate using only pre-programmed instructions crafted by team members such as Sophia – who joined specifically for the programming aspect. Teams earn points by selecting and removing opponent colored ‘jewels’ from platforms, picking up and placing boxes, and parking the robot.
The teams compete in the British Columbia FIRST Tech Challenge Championships at St. Michaels University School on the Richmond Road on Feb. 17.
“The best part is competing,” says Seth. “You get the thrill of the competition and you get to see other designs and talk to other people.”
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