High school robotics team nabs silver

High school robotics team nabs silver

Students go up against the best across the country at Skills Canada event

The Mount Baker Secondary School Robotics team captured a silver medal at a national Skills Canada competition in Winnipeg with their machines leading the way.

Under the tutelage of MBSS instructor Bill Walker, Ryley Holliday, Thomas Keehn, Cesar Garcia and Michael Doll all spent the year designing and building their robots under Skills Canada guidelines that require them to complete certain tasks in the competition.

The four came off a gold medal performance at provincials earlier in April in Abbotsford, which gave them the opportunity to showcase their builds at nationals.

Unfortunately, only two — Holliday and Keehn — of the four were able to travel to Winnipeg and represent the team as they pitted their ‘bots against competing builds from schools across the country.

Silver is a nice upgrade from bronze, which the Mount Baker team nabbed last year.

“It’s pretty good,” said Keen, “We certainly weren’t expecting it, we had some troubles throughout the year, but we just kept trying different robots.”

Named after Canadian football players — Doug and Darren Flutie — the two machines were designed to pick up a small foam football with a vice claw on a boom extension and load it into a catapult appropriately named after famed BC Lions place kicker Lui Passaglia. After loading the projectile, one of the two Flutie ‘bots would trigger the catapult mechanism to put the football to flight.

The catapult was stationary, while the two bots were mobile and controlled remotely.

“50 per cent of the points we got were the football game, just running the footballs to get points and the other 50 per cent was the autonomous part, where we actually had to program and build a robot there,” said Holliday.

“These robots we had time to build and test and all that and the autonomous part we had to build and test them at the competition, so it was a little stressful, but we made it work.”

The autonomous portion of the competition included building a ‘bot on site and programming it to navigate obstacles on it’s own, such as a maze course and following a line on the ground.

Every school year when interested students get together to build new robots, they are given a set of criteria from Skills Canada, that set out guidelines as to what the capabilities need to be.

That also included size restrictions — the ‘bots had to be built with a size not exceeding four cubic feet.

The guidelines made for some different builds as other teams tried take a design dreamed up on paper to an actual functional ‘bot.

“Some of them had similar ideas to what we had,” said Keehn. “Some had spinning wheels like a pitching machine and we [had] tried that, didn’t work too well, but it seemed to work for them. There were some trebuchets, some people just ran it like us. It was quite diverse.”

While much of the components for the ‘bots were purchased, others had to be milled to design specifications, which they were able to do with the help of John Milner, a local machinist who builds centrepiece fishing reels through his company — John Milner Reels.

“He helps us a lot; without him we probably wouldn’t be here,” said Holliday.

Walker, of course, was happy to see his students’ hard work over the year pay off through the results they obtained at provincials and nationals.

“Really proud and pumped,” Walker said. “They did awesome.”

While the Mount Baker Robotics team was busy demonstrating their skills, fellow Mount Baker student Jurnee Blackmore was also participating in the national Skills Canada competition in the public speaking category.