Alex Kurz (left), Mckayla Mackenzie, Cameron Mears and Kyle Brown are part of the programming branch of the Esquimalt Atom Smashers. Here, they are working on a new code for the upcoming FIRST Robotics Canada Competition. (File contributed/ Tina O’Keefe)

Alex Kurz (left), Mckayla Mackenzie, Cameron Mears and Kyle Brown are part of the programming branch of the Esquimalt Atom Smashers. Here, they are working on a new code for the upcoming FIRST Robotics Canada Competition. (File contributed/ Tina O’Keefe)

Esquimalt High robotics team heads to international competition

The Esquimalt Atom Smashers will participate in the FIRST Robotics Canada competition

Esquimalt High School students stayed at the school well past 9 p.m. Tuesday to put the final touches on their robot for an upcoming international competition.

The Esquimalt Atom Smashers are competing for the second year in a row, and will be one of the 35 high school robotics teams competing in the upcoming FIRST Robotics Canada competition, an international event with students coming from as far as New Zealand and Hawaii. Other local competitors include teams from Reynolds Secondary, Spectrum Community School and Belmont Secondary.

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The Esquimalt Atom Smashers officially bagged their robot on Tuesday, and must leave it untouched until March 7, but they were quick to build a practice robot to run their programs on.

In early January teams were given specific tasks that their robots would need to complete for the competition. This year the robots will need to move a dodgeball, place it in a container on three different levels, close a hatch held open by Velcro, and move itself back to a levelled dock. Teams can choose to do all or some of the tasks, and this year the Atom Smashers decided to go for the first three.

“Our team tends to be more adventurous with their designs,” said team coach and Esquimalt High teacher Tina O’Keefe. “They are on the edge and will go after engineering their own parts. “

In 2018 the team’s inaugural robot won them the All-star Rookie Award, which got them to the World Title competition in Houston, Texas, where 400 teams compete.

READ MORE: Esquimalt High robotics students engineer their way to Texas

This year they hope to go just as far, but even if they don’t O’Keefe said the 24 students on the team learn invaluable lessons.

“The team actually runs as a company, and each has a department head who report to the logistics head,” O’Keefe said. “They learn about teamwork, project management, time management, how to collaborate with other people and how to develop plans.”

The team is divided into different sections, including business managers, robot drivers, builders, programmers and 3D printers.

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“They can belong to one part of the team or all of them,” O’Keefe said. “They’re learning so much, the programs they’re making are all on Fusion 360 CAD files. It’s really quite amazing what they’re doing.”

The team’s size doubled since last year, and enthusiasm from the community also spread with large sponsors including Telus, PBX engineering, Bumper to Bumper and Victoria Water Jet.

The competition will run March 7-9 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena. The first day will be a practice day with the competition running the next two days.

Volunteers are still needed for the event, including lead team queuer, pit administration supervisors, referees and scorekeepers. Training is provided and volunteers get a free T-shirt and food. FIRST is also still looking for corporate sponsors for the event.

All three days are free and open to the public. For more information, you can visit firstroboticscanada.org.


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