Microsoft Team of the Week – The Pink Titans

Thank you to Microsoft for supporting FIRST Robotics Competition! Throughout competition season, we will get to know Microsoft-sponsored teams. This week we profile FIRST team 5719, the Pink Titans, from David & Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute in Toronto. This group of enthusiastic students is having an excellent season so far. Read on to find out what they’re most excited about, their biggest accomplishment, and more. Go, Pink Titans!

Q1. What are you most excited for this season? 
A1: The Pink Titans are most excited for another opportunity to compete in Ontario District Events of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

This season’s theme recognizes the 50th anniversary of the historic achievement of people first travelling to the Moon. This celebration also helps us to recognize the amazing innovations, advancements, and achievements of Canadian STEM professionals in space exploration. Last week, Canada was confirmed to play a major part in building robotics and developing artificial intelligence for the Lunar Gateway project. (Literally, Canadians are headed for Destination: Deep Space—travelling INTO ORBIT on MISSION MOON!) This is one example of many achievements, globally to locally, inspiring Canadian youth to dream big, believe, and pursue possibilities.

The Pink Titans, like other FIRST teams, have members with much potential and seek opportunities to discover what is possible. From participation in past event seasons, students discovered possibilities and achieved success in real-world problem-solving. Students also applied newly-learned skills in utilizing tools or programming code, applied successfully to post-secondary programs, learned to speak more confidently, focused on school, and become an inspiration to others.

FIRST programs provide really amazing opportunities for the students to become excited for their learning. It is very inspiring to see students, especially those new to FIRST, set and achieve goals for the team and individually. The students also enjoy sharing their experiences and knowledge of skills with others. Participating in the upcoming event season is very exciting for the team. Participating will provide on-going opportunities for more students to learn, share, ignite curiosities in STEM, and celebrate achievements together; all in the context of a challenging yet very rewarding robotics experience.

Microsoft Team of the Week, Pink Titans, team members
Two of the Pink Titan team members work together on their robot. It’s all about team work!

Q2. What is the biggest team accomplishment so far this year?
A2: The biggest accomplishment happened in the fall when students on the team presented as the Student Voice at a meeting of the Ignite-Explore-Inspire Learning Cadre for the Toronto District School Board. The students spoke to over 90 teachers and administrators who were interested in utilizing assistive technologies in the classroom.

The presenters have major interests in social studies, phys. ed., and visual art. Before joining the team, the presenters were introduced to coding and building with hand tools by members of the team. Enjoying the experience and believing what is possible, the girls wanted to share their enthusiasm for learning with others. They collaborated with other girls and formed mentor-mentee relationships with girls from local elementary schools. Hearing comments like “I never knew that I can build a robot” from the mentees encouraged the girls to believing that they are making a difference. Over a year, they implemented robotics workshops and presentations about girl empowerment in pursuit of STEM-related interests. Instilling values of staying curious, challenging oneself, pursuing goals, and learning from mistakes in younger girls has been a very rewarding experience. This is evidence that the FIRST program helps to build good character and responsible citizenship in students.

Having the students share this testimonial of the positive impact of the FIRST program in their personal growth was a big moment for the team.

Q3. What outreach event did your team enjoy most and why?
A3: The team most enjoyed participating in FIRST Canada’s Open House in east Toronto. This past fall, FIRST Canada showcased the benefits of their programs to students, parents, and members of the community that may face challenges in meeting equitable opportunities. The team enjoyed this outreach event because the students felt very inspired by volunteers from nearby and far away, senior leadership of FIRST Canada, and local FIRST teams conveying the positive impact of FIRST programs for increasing student achievement and engagement. It was very inspiring to hear student participants in FIRST give their testimonials on how the community is a family that provides opportunities, helps one another achieve success, and helps all individuals to believe what is possible. The students on the team felt privileged to be able to contribute by answering questions from parents who felt excited to enroll their children in FIRST programs.

Q4. How has the Microsoft grant supported your team and why is it important?
A4: The Microsoft grant has been supporting the team by helping to pay the registration fee for participation in this year’s Ontario District Events. The generous grant was very important to the team, based in a low-income area of the city with limited opportunities for local fund-raising. With much gratitude to Microsoft for their support, the students on the team can continue to benefit from a really unique learning experience that they would not have otherwise. Although the team is small in numbers, the students have big hearts.

The students feel very fortunate to be receiving this grant as the students appreciate what the FIRST program has been providing. Despite the challenges during the build season, the students persevere to learn, grow as a team, and inspire each other. The students are excited for another opportunity to share their passion for and of learning in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition.