Muskoka team part of winning alliance at FIRST Robotics Competition

The competition was fierce as hundreds of high school students used scientific knowledge and teamwork to guide their robots through the FIRST Robotics Competition at the Georgian College Barrie Campus last weekend.

Teams had about two months to build custom robots to compete in robo-sports. They were judged on their ability to complete specific tasks, engineering excellence, teamwork, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Congratulations to the Georgian College District Event champions: Team 865 WARP7 (from Toronto), Team 1325 Inverse Paradox (from Mississauga), and Team 6859 BML Robotics (from Bracebridge).

BML Robotics represents Bracebridge and Muskoka Lake Secondary School. The team was founded in 2017 and the Georgian College event was their fifth competition ever.

It’s a small but mighty team, made up of three Grade 10 students and three Grade 11 students. Five teachers, parents and community members serve as volunteer mentors, including Eyan Wheatley, a technology teacher.

Wheatley said the group learned important lessons about perseverance and teamwork at the competition.

“We were the dark horse,” said Wheatley. “Having failed to get our climbing winch working during all but the final qualification matches, our ranking was low. But we didn’t give up.”

A large component of FIRST Robotics is making alliances with other teams to demonstrate team work. Wheatley said one of the other winning teams, Team 865, wanted BML Robotics to practice climb with them before one of the few remaining qualification matches.

“This proved to them we were team players and had a reliable climb,” said Wheatley.

The final match was a nail biter which made victory even sweeter.

“Winning the final match with a perfectly balanced triple hang, and achieving the highest match score was amazing,” said Wheatley. “That’s over 300 pounds of machines attaching and hoisting themselves up on a teetering bar. Our small, and relatively inexperienced team directly contributed more than 20 per cent of the alliance total score. Pretty amazing when playing with such high-calibre teams as 865 and 1325.”

Next up, BML Robotics will compete at Nipissing University in North Bay from March 27 to 29. The team will try to earn enough points to advance to the provincial championships in Mississauga in April.

“At our next team meeting we will prioritize our next steps to help improve the reliability and ease of maintenance on our robot,” said Wheatley. “Improving these will help reduce the stress on our small team as they get so few breaks.”

A total of 29 teams of high school students participated in the event at Georgian including six teams from Simcoe, Grey and Muskoka regions.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international non-profit organization, designed to inspire students to pursue studies and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“Georgian was proud to host this competition for the fourth consecutive year because we believe it’s important to support, train and inspire the next generation of innovators and leaders,” said Lisa Banks, Vice President External Relations and Enrolment, Georgian College.

Almost 1,200 people attended the event, including 100 volunteers from within the college and across the community who worked to ensure the event ran smoothly.

Special thank you to all of the event sponsors who invested in this learning opportunity for future technologists: Nissan Canada Foundation, Honda, Kuka, Omron, Page Graphics, Advanced Motion & Control, County of Simcoe, Wurth Elektronik, and the Georgian College Alumni Association.

Photo: The BML Robotics team from Bracebridge and Muskoka Lake Secondary School with their winning banner at the FIRST Robotics Ontario District event at Georgian College. Photo courtesy of FIRST Canada.

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