The newly-formed Penticton Robotics club is breaking new ground as the first team from the city to compete at the upcoming FIRST Robotics Competition in Victoria, but it needs the community’s help.
The club is comprised of students from both Penticton Secondary School and Princess Margaret Secondary School, and is led by Princess Maggie teachers Tyler Legare and Josh Walker, who both have experience in teaching robotics electronics. The team recently learned it has been accepted to compete in the Canadian Pacific Regional competition and will now need to fundraise around $10,000 to offset the costs of supplies, travel, accommodations and more.
FIRST stands for ‘for inspiration and recognition of science and technology’ and the youth-serving nonprofit hosts a number of STEM-based competitions and programs. In order to participate in the provincial level FIRST Robotics Competition, Penticton Robotics needs to “build and program robots to perform challenging tasks against a field of competitors.”
“They must also raise funds, design a team ‘brand’, hone teamwork skills, and perform community outreach,” states the event website. “In addition to learning valuable STEM and life skills, participants are eligible to apply for $80 million in college scholarships.”
To make things more complicated, the teams are not told what the challenge is until the competition delivers their supplies kit on Jan. 4. Then, the team only has three weeks to design, build and code their robot to take on the challenge before bringing it to the competition, which runs March 4 to 7.
Nicola Thompson, a Grade 11 student at Pen High, had the idea to start a robotics club in Penticton when she was applying for Shad Canada, an enrichment program for high-achieving high school students. She said she likes the fact that the club isn’t just for kids interested in robotics, because their team needs representatives to design their T-shirt and logo, brand the club, set up their website, engage with local media and fundraise to offset costs, to name a few roles.
“I signed up when I learned about it in my electronics and robotics class,” said Pen High Grade 9 student Luke Pollock.
“We’ve applied to the New Teams Growth Grant from FIRST Robotics for $4,000 USD which gets the team going. So we’re waiting to hear about our application for that one,” said Walker. “And we’ve just found out we received a $5,000 grant from the province. And we did the math and it will cost us $15,000 for year one to compete so we need to fundraise about $10,000.”
Legare added, “Because this is our first year competing, the competition considers us a Rookie Team so we will actually get two kits – the original kit that every other team gets and then sort of a supplemental one to help us out.”
The only clue the teams have is the fact that the official sponsor of the competition this year is Star Wars, and that the challenge may have something to do with renewable energy.
“The challenge comes up with some sort of different exercises (the robot must do) so it could be some kind of a sport, a payload delivery of some sort which may be from a different location or height, and then some kind of manoeuvre or exercise,” said Legare. “So I think it’s going to be really interesting.”
“We’re a pretty good team, you see a lot of team sports that have a ton of drama. But most of us are kinda nerds so…” said Thompson with a laugh
If the team performs well in this competition, they have the opportunity to advance to the national level and from there the world stage. Legare said while that would be incredible, since it’s their first year they are just focusing on having fun and working as a team.
Businesses or organizations interested in sponsoring the Penticton Robotics club, or those wanting to make a donation to their fundraising efforts can contact Legare at email@example.com or Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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