Four TDSB schools are preparing to go “into orbit” at FIRST Robotics Canada’s Ontario Innovation Celebration (OIC). Glen Ames PS, Clinton Street PS, and Armour Heights PS all qualified for the OIC by virtue of their strong performances at the FIRST LEGO League Provincial Championships held in Oshawa in January, while Bessborough PS earned a spot from a previous qualifier tournament..
“Into Orbit” is the theme for this year’s FIRST competitions, in which teams are tasked with identifying and solving a problem related to space exploration. Four of the eighteen squads participating at the OIC will have an opportunity to apply to represent Ontario at the Global Innovation Award in San Jose, California this summer, and a chance to win $20,000 to support development of their project.
The team from Glen Ames PS, dubbed the Guardians of the Galaxsee, have already qualified for another international competition after taking the Second Place Champions Award in Oshawa. The team will participate at the US Open Championship in Carlsbad, California in May. It will be third consecutive year, and the fifth time overall, that the Beach-area school will be representing Canada on the world stage. “I was blown away when I realized that,” said proud Glen Ames teacher and coach Luke Martin.
The Guardians’ project this year focuses on creating an autonomous robot to capture key moments from home and then send these memories to space for an astronaut to enjoy in Virtual Reality. “This would help with the mental wellness of astronauts,” explained Martin, adding that the idea is already being explored for other fields such as the military. Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk called the project innovative. He said that the “Home Away From Home solution including 360 videos recorded by family members will certainly help the deep space astronauts feel more connected with loved ones.”
Sixteen TDSB robotics teams competed at the Ontario East Provincial Championship in Oshawa. In addition to the Second Place Champions Award for Glen Ames, the Clinton Street PS Cyber Cougars and the Runnymede PS Cyberbolts won the Research Award and Teamwork Award, respectively.
For the teams advancing to the OIC, the season has already been a huge success, no matter what happens next. “Each year you start over with a new group of talented students who all have skills individually,” said Martin. “Watching them grow as a team is the most amazing aspect of the FIRST experience.”
That process has been a life-changing one for the students on the Clinton Street Cyber Cougars team, according to coaches Stephanie Guay, Ashley Weger, and Angel Wu. “Through our ups and downs, our successes and challenges, we have seen our kids grow so much in such a short time. The degree to which they reflect on their strengths, areas to improve and ways to share their experiences with others is nothing short of amazing.”
For coach Paul Offor from Armour Heights PS, robotics brings together “math, science, technology, art, language, history, geography, the future and the past.” It gives students on the Armourites robotics team an opportunity to turn into leaders, said Offor. “The passions run so deep, that former team members are present mentors and volunteers.”