Esquimalt students make a business case for robotics – Goldstream News Gazette

Members of the robotics club at Esquimalt High compete in the Canadian Pacific Regional competition FIRST Robotics BC this weekend in Victoria. (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)
The robotics club at Esquimalt High competes in this weekend's Canadian Pacific Regional competition in Victoria.  (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)The robotics club at Esquimalt High competes in this weekend’s Canadian Pacific Regional competition in Victoria. (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)
The robotics club at Esquimalt High competes in this weekend's Canadian Pacific Regional competition in Victoria.  (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)The robotics club at Esquimalt High competes in this weekend’s Canadian Pacific Regional competition in Victoria. (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)

The robotics club at Esquimalt High is running like a fine tuned machine these days. Mentors and peers tell teacher Tina O’Keeffe that it takes about five years for students to gel.

The prediction was right on target.

“This is their first year being a true team. Everyone has a part in this robot,” said O’Keeffe.

The Esquimalt Atom Smashers are one of the Greater Victoria High School teams that compete annually through For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) – an international youth organization that operates several robotics challenges and competitions. FIRST Robotics BC aims to inspire students to pursue studies and careers in related fields through challenges and competitions such as this weekend’s FIRST Robotics Canadian Pacific Regional event in Victoria.

There are two streams. The FIRST Robotics Challenge saw the team embark on a small project in the fall. In January, the team received instructions for the larger FIRST Tech Challenge, and had until March to prepare the robot for competition, explains team leader Kyle Brown.

Now in his graduation year, Brown started in Grade 9 and has seen the change from one person providing ideas to build, to the cohesive team atmosphere the team has this year.

“What we found worked well was to have a special week where we put ideas on the board,” he said. Everyone develops passion and a sense of belonging to the final product.

The team has also developed subgroups to address elements such as programming, development, design, and business.

Team FIRST requires a budget of between $10,000 and $16,000 annually, making business teams critical to both year-on-year budgets and succession planning. “Of all the schools, we have the biggest teams with big budgets because the kids work there,” says O’Keeffe.

Instead of one person making cold calls and meeting sponsors, there is a business team making connections, setting up fundraisers, and doing community outreach.

They even secured major sponsorship at Code Name Entertainment and Seaspan Victoria Shipyards.

This ensures team members volunteer and are visible in the community, and that the team can cover bills and plan for the future so it exists and is funded the next five or six years, he said.

The most engaged team members spend about 10 hours a week on the project.

He looks forward to this weekend’s competition with a well-crafted team and credits some of the program’s success in guiding O’Keeffe. “He really cares about the team and puts a lot of time and energy into it.”

FIRST Robotics BC hosted the FIRST 22 Robotics Competition robotics teams – along with their robots, created and programmed by high school students on March 4 and 5 at the Save on Foods Memorial Center in Victoria.

Teams from Esquimalt, Spectrum and Reynolds competed in the Canadian Pacific Regional competition.

Spectators are not allowed this year.

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca

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