Centre Dufferin District High School students blaze technology trail

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Athletes have long hogged the spotlight when it comes to high school competitions.


At Centre Dufferin District High School (CDDHS), the academics have finally been given the chance to shine.


For the first time in the school’s history, a robotics club has formed and entered the FIRST Robotics Canada Waterloo Regional Competition.


The event is a series of short sport-like games played by remote control robots. A robot is designed and built within six weeks from a set of basic parts provided to each team. The club has partnered with KTH in Shelburne to act as part providers and engineering mentors.


“I haven’t seen sports teams work this hard”

-Mike DeLaat, math teacher


This year, Waterloo University will host 23 teams who will be competing not only for bragging rights, but a berth at the world championship in St. Louis, Missouri.


For a rural school like CDDHS, competing in this event is a significant step towards encouraging more education in computer science and engineering.


“I haven’t seen sports teams work this hard,” Mike DeLaat, a math teacher at the school said.


During the school’s lunch break, the club piles into the auto shop mezzanine to build their competitor.


Grade 9 students man the laptop in an attempt to launch a program to run the robot, while other students help measure and assemble the latest additions.


During it all, DeLaat studies the room.


Students with ranging interests, in math to science to technology, mash together for a project he hopes the school will continue to support.


The only problem is money. The club received a one-time grant of $9,000, which covers the competition’s entry fee of $6,000. But with a budget that’s nearly maxed out, DeLaat doubts they’ll be able to stretch the remaining amount into next year.


“We still have to go to the competition,” he said. “That’s 20 kids, three days in a hotel, so that’s another $3,000 right there we still need.”


The club is looking for sponsorship to help ease the financial burden.


“The whole idea is to combine math, science, technology and engineering in an application students have never done before,” DeLaat said.


The club has Grade 12 student Toni Schraa to thank for bringing the project to the school’s attention after she helped a robotics team from Kingston in a competition last year.


“I realized that being such, like a country school, it’d be cool to have a bunch of heads go together on this,” she said.


The competition starts on March 20. For more information on the event, visit firstroboticscanada.org.


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