Premier John Horgan took passes from robots at his old high school in Saanich Tuesday morning as the provincial government announced a grant of $250,000 towards FIRST Robotics BC. FIRST — which stands For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — describes itself as an international organization that encourages young people to pursue further studies and careers in science, technology and engineering.
Horgan announced the funding at Reynolds secondary school – where he graduated in 1977 as class president – in the company of local MLA Rob Fleming, minister of education, Jordan Waters, board chair of the Greater Victoria School District No. 61, Ian Koscielski, regional director of FIRST Robotics BC, and Reynolds principal Tom Aerts.
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Visibly enjoying himself, Horgan announced the additional funding in front of the robotic teams from Esquimalt High (Atom Smashers), Spectrum Community School (ThunderBots), Belmont Secondary, and of course, Reynolds (ReyBots). All four teams competed in FIRST Robotics Canada competition earlier this year and Reynolds advanced to the FIRST Championship held in Houston last month, the biggest STEM-related event in the world, on its first try out.
“I want to congratulate the ReyBots for their outstanding rookie season,” said Horgan before announcing the funding.
Horgan said the additional cash will help more students participate in robotics, which will ultimately benefit the provincial economy.
“It’s not just about making robots, and fulfilling the component parts of your course work,” he said. “It’s all about preparing for our future. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — the STEM courses are so critically important to our economic success now and going forward.”
Waters welcomed the funding, noting that robotics unites students across multiple disciplines. “I know that this grant is going to make it possible for so many more teachers to step up and really tackle this with their students,” she said.
Koscielski predicts that the funding will introduce more students across British Columbia to STEM through robotics. “We very much value this funding, and it will directly help more students get involved in our programs,” he said.
The organization with close to 1,800 participants in 2019 will use this funding to expand teacher development, enhance curriculum resources, explore state-of-the-art robotics materials and hire more staff to mentor students.
Logan Kuzyk was one of the Reynolds students who represented the school in Houston. He said the experience was intense, but also inspiring. “I’m really looking forward to the future of our team, as we continue to progress and grow, and I’m really excited to see what our team will be able to accomplish in future years.”
Kuzyk then demonstrated the team’s robot to Horgan. Grinning broadly during this part of the event, Horgan first played ‘catch’ with the robot before actually taking charge of it with the help of a remote control. While Horgan still needs to work on his robot ‘dunk,’ he clearly enjoyed himself as he joked with students, teachers and staff.
Early on, he even asked Aerts, if he was in trouble.
“Good to see you,” he said. “I’m not in trouble, am I? I used to always feel felt that way when I saw the principal here in Reynolds, but apparently all is good today.”