AISHA F. KHAN

Last weekend, ambitious high school students from all around Ontario competed in what you might call a “ROBOTastic “event.

Victoria Park CI’s FRC robotics Team 4914, hosted Fall Fiesta – an off-season First Robotics competition sponsored by the TDSB and FIRST. This is the 2nd annual event of its kind held at VPCI.

The 2015 game, titled “Recycle Rush”, required robots to stack green garbage bins, grey and yellow totes and pool noodles for a differing number of points. The game is played alongside alliances – three different teams from three different schools form one group called an alliance. There are two alliances in each match – either red or blue. This “colossal” group changes every match.

The idea of “Coopetition” stems from here – the alliances work together but they still compete against one another, as well.

Friday, October 23rd was the day the Junior Event took place – teams with two years or less of experience battled to see which robot could stack the most recycling bins. The winners of this event would compete at the senior event the next day.

There were many different robots with much variety in their design in every match.

It’s interesting how every robot moves in different ways but they all have the same task to accomplish.

The idea of off-season events such as Fall Fiesta are to let new teams and new team members grasp the feel of competitions, and to let them become familiar with the game before the actual season begins.

The games and its rules are released near build season, which runs from January to February. Teams have six weeks to build their robot and then the games commence.

“You spend a lot of time on it – six weeks – it’s just a bunch of parts until you put it together. It’s our creation. Even when it breaks down and needs work, we will always be proud of it,” says a member of Victoria Park’s Team 4914, who wishes to remain anonymous.

The game changes every year and it is always challenging and exciting. Every team and every individual is hyped for the 2016 game named “Stronghold.”

In the actual competition, the robot must perform some sort of movement for 10 seconds and then the drive team rushes to control the machine for the rest of the two-minute match.

“So there is this controller just like the video game kind except this is no game where you are driving a car or a tank – it’s real, it is better, and who would have thought I was learning too,” said one Drive Team member.

The game gets intense. Competition is fierce and the drive team really has an enormous task of dealing with the pressure throughout the competition

Nevertheless, there are awards handed out not only to the winners and finalist but others such as “Best Team Imagery,” “Gracious Professionalism,” “Best Offensive Robot,” and “The Volunteer Award.”

There is also the celebrity match. Many superintendents and TDSB trustees attended this event such as Ken Lister, Superintendent of Ward 17. He played alongside Team 188 – Blizzard from Woburn CI in the celebrity match.

Schools and their communities have something of which to be really proud.

“Great opportunity to meet new people who love robots as much as I do,” said Ravicha Ravinthiran, Team 4914 member.

“…There is a lot of teamwork involved in robotics,” said Fatima Jangda, Team 4914.

Students are learning – from teamwork to communicating, to getting the wiring right on the robot. The robots are either holding green bins from the back and stacking gray totes from the front or collecting them at once – these are real automations built by kids.

This competition and this program, in a nutshell, are preparing, encouraging, and inspiring the adults of the future to take matters into their own hands.

This is something big – taking technology to a whole new level and today’s youth are at the starting lines.