Tyler Smith

man in black shirt standing beside a robotCurrently Studying:

Engineering at McMaster University

Alumni of Teams:

                    • FIRST Tech Challenge Team 18960/16413
                    • FIRST Robotics Competition Team 4069 Lo-Ellen Robotics

Involvement as a FIRST Canada Alum:

In 2023 as an alum, I was happy to volunteer in queueing at the McMaster University event, and return to mentor the scouting side of team 4069 at the North Bay and District Championship events.

In 2024, I took on being a co-volunteer coordinator position at the McMaster University event!

Story of FIRST Journey:

I was introduced to FIRST through a grade 9 engineering class in my high school through taking part in FIRST-inspired challenge projects centred around using Arduino and 3D printing. Towards the end of that first high school year I began learning how to program FRC robots from grade 11 students of team 4069. 

I threw myself head first into FIRST in my grade 10 year through competing in FIRST Tech Challenge during its first year in Ontario. Attending the provincial championship in Oshawa was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my high school journey, spending all night working on code and seeing our robot in action the following day. That event had me hooked for the rest of high school, however my in-person FRC introduction had to wait following the closures spurred by COVID-19. 

In grade 11, I once again competed in FIRST Tech Challenge as team captain of my school’s newly formed team 18960. While taking on programming, design and presentation responsibilities, I also shifted my focus towards education and mentorship throughout the repeated school closures of that school year. I mentored less experienced students in programming and controls in our schools newly formed FIRST Tech Challenge class, and eventually formalized important material into a series of video tutorials for use in subsequent years of FIRST Tech Challenge classroom instruction in my school. Additionally, I brought the competition to my garage, where I set up a field and ran matches for virtual FIRST Tech Challenge tournaments. Team 18960 was awarded the Control Award at Provincial Championships and I was named a Dean’s List Finalist, which remains one of my most treasured accomplishments.

In my final year of high school, I finally competed in my first year of FIRST Robotics Competition in person and dove in head first, taking on the organizational responsibilities of being team captain, designing two of the robots mechanisms, programming a majority of the robot and being heavily involved in presentations. The season was filled with late night stays in my school’s engineering lab, reprogramming autonomous routines, and redesigning the climber after it broke again. I became close friends instantly with new members of the team by working alongside them, developed technical skills in a variety of disciplines, and exercised necessary skills in organization and discipline. Throughout the year, I was also a member of the FIRST Canada Youth Council, helping to produce FIRST Canada Live, interviewing prominent members of the STEM community, and contributing to the “Being FIRST” magazine. I capped off my high school FIRST experience by conducting 2 months of programming lessons for younger programmers in the school, giving the same teaching experience back to younger students that I had received in grade 9 when I was first being introduced to FIRST.
In 2023 as an alum, I was happy to volunteer in queueing at the McMaster University event, and return to mentor the scouting side of team 4069 at the North Bay and District Championship events.

In 2024, I took on being a co-volunteer coordinator position at the McMaster University event!

How has FIRST impacted your education choices,  career choices, and overall life?

I credit participation in FIRST as a major driver of my current post secondary career, including being awarded a Schulich Leader Scholarship, earning a position on the McMaster Mars Rover Team, and working in a technical position each of the last two summers.

I developed a variety of technical skills throughout my high school FIRST experience, including mechanical CAD design, java programming, control theory, and rapid prototyping. All of these were immensely valuable in completing my first-year engineering courses. However, I think the greatest things I learned from FIRST came in the form of confidence, and soft skills such as leadership, collaboration and (especially) dedication. I was able to commit a very large portion of time to competing in FIRST in my later years of high school, and managing this with athletic, academic, and employment commitments set me up for a successful first year of university.

With my mother working as an engineer and my love of science from a young age, engineering was always something I was encouraged to think about pursuing, however in competing in FIRST I quickly became certain that engineering was for me. The thrill of overcoming difficult challenges, and seeing something you create in action had me hooked both on FIRST and engineering. Now, as I engage in post high school technical activities, I grow ever more certain I made the correct choice in choosing engineering, and I am grateful to FIRST for allowing me to “test drive” engineering in high school.

Click here to read more about FIRST Robotics Canada Alumni