Halton students ring in New Year with robotics

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Hundreds of students, teachers and community mentors are gathering in Burlington Saturday for the launch of this year’s FIRST Robotics competition.


Hosted by the Halton District School Board, the event will also recognize a pair of local companies that sponsored last year’s winning teams — Eaton Canada and Hatch — as well as State Farm, whose $100,000 donation will help the board expand its robotics program from Kindergarten to Grade 12.


It kicks off at 9 a.m. at the New Street Education Centre.


“We couldn’t do it without the sponsorship,” said Dave Lewis, the board’s technological education and pathway co-ordinator. “It’s huge.”


At Saturday’s event, students and mentors will receive this year’s challenge. Then, they’ll have six weeks to design and build their team’s robot from scratch — parts included — before testing it at competitions across North America.


On top of that, the board also plans to announce a new pilot project with Innovate Burlington, which will see students in the robotics program earn certifications as part of the board’s specialist high skills major program in manufacturing.


“We’re actually going to be trying to give the kids a certification so they’re more aware of what they’re doing, rather than just enjoying the process,” Lewis said.


Last year, two of the board’s four robotics teams won regional competitions in Maine and Calgary, respectively. This year, the program has grown to seven teams and more than 1,000 students across Halton.


FIRST Robotics Canada was established in 2001 with the aim of inspiring elementary and secondary students to pursue studies and careers in science, technology and engineering. Today, thousands of students take part in the annual contest across the country, including hundreds in Hamilton.


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