Peel robotics teams gear up for competition after NASA announces new challenge

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Mississauga News

By Graeme Frisque

MISSISSAUGA – Thousands of Robotics teams from Peel Region and across the world were glued to their monitors and Smart TV’s last weekend as NASA released the international game challenge for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) 2015 competition season.

Now that the task has been announced – “Recycle Rush”: build a robot that can stack tote bins and pool noodles – more than a dozen local teams made up  of hundreds of high school kids will have six weeks to design, build and test their robots ahead of the regional stage of competition.

Team 1325, otherwise known as ‘Inverse Paradox’ from Gordon Graydon Memorial Secondary School in Mississauga, were among those watching on Saturday. They are now getting set to compete for a spot at the FRC World Championships in St. Louis, Missouri in April.

“This (year’s game) is going to be interesting. The last few years have been shooting games. Two years ago was a frisbee shooting game and at the end you had to climb a pyramid. Last year you had to shoot a two-foot yoga ball into an upper goal,” said Team 1325 mentor coach Stefan Sing.

Unlike BattleBots of television fame where the object is to destroy your opponent’s robot, FRC employs a more goal-oriented approach that focuses on teamwork and friendly competition.

According to Sing’s father, Roland, a coach and mentor with Team 1325, teams can have thirty or more members responsible for different phases of construction and competition.

“There is the robot, which is obviously important, but there is way more involved than just the robot,” said the senior Sing. “There are other elements that we call the B.A.T.M.A.N. side of things, which stands for Business And Technology, Marketing And Networking.”

Teams from Peel have excelled in international competition over the last two seasons, with Team 1241 from Rick Hansen Secondary School (also known as ‘Theory6’) beating out more than 4,000 other teams from across the globe to take home the 2013 FRC World Championship.

Meanwhile, Chingbotics 3560z from Chinguacousy Secondary School in Brampton captured the 2014 VEX Robotics (VRC) World Championship last year in Anaheim, California. The VEX Robotics Competition is a smaller competition circuit also active in Peel which is similar to, but separate from, FRC.

John Hobbins, director of FIRST Robotics Canada, said that registration in FIRST Robotics-affiliated programs in Ontario has nearly doubled this year, with a 47 per cent increase at the high school level (FRC) and a 44 per cent increase among middle-schoolers (FIRST Lego League).

All teams now have six weeks to complete their robots before the first of five regional qualifying events to be held across the province in Toronto, Oshawa, Waterloo, North Bay and Windsor.


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