Island high school robotics teams heading to provincial championships this week

The Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) Manitoulin Metal team pit set-up at the North Bay competition includes, left, Jocelyn Kuntsi, Rhys Allison, Ryan Kuntsi and Alex Wilson-Zegil.

MANITOULIN—Two Manitoulin Island high school teams have taken part in competitions as part of the First Robotics Canada (FRC) Ontario regional events and are now preparing for the provincials taking place this week.

Both the Wikwemikong High School STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) team and the Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) Manitoulin Metal team took part in both the North Bay regional FRC and the North York regional competition.

“Our team first took part in the North York Regional competition on March 25-26 and the North Bay FRC regional competition (the first weekend in April) this past weekend,” said MSS team mentor Yana Bauer. “At the York University competition, we were very happy with the team’s performance and the robot functioned well. The team scored very well. We didn’t end up in the finals but that was okay. The team was very happy to be there and had a great time.”

“We had no expectations of winning any awards,” said Ms. Bauer. “Then it was announced that we had won two awards, the Judge’s Award (the judge’s favourite team award). This award is given out to an all-round strong team, which has a good business safety model, has good team spirit and has demonstrated good sportsmanship.”

A few minutes later, the judges announced the winners of the Dean’s List Award. Each team nominates one member of their team who demonstrates excellent leadership skills and has done well in the judge’s interviews (done virtually). MSS team member Jocelyn Kuntsi was named as the winner of the York University competition and has now been entered into the provincial competition.

“In the meantime, we were trying to improve and make repairs to our robot, but ended up having two snow days,” said Ms. Bauer. “Fortunately, we had members of the team who could get into the school safely to work on the robot.”

“The team had super fun at the competition in North Bay. Wiikwemkoong was there, as was North Bay and other schools,” said Ms. Bauer. “I think everyone was just happy to be there. There were fans there and you could just sense their joy.” Performance wise, the team, “didn’t do great overall at North Bay. We had a series of unfortunate events with our robot and several other difficulties. We had some really good matches in the morning but our robot didn’t function well in the afternoon.”

“This week, the FRC judges had combined the awards from the North Bay and Windsor-Essex events, and the MSS team once again won the Judge’s Award. As well, Alex Wilson-Zegil, a Grade 9 student, was selected for the All-Star Safety Award,” continued Ms. Bauer. “She does things like take wellness checks on everyone on the team, makes sure everyone is properly hydrated and many other things. We are very proud of her winning this award.”

“Now we will be taking part in the provincials April 13-16,” said Ms. Bauer.

“We competed at the competition in North Bay,” said Chris Mara, coach of the Wikwemikong High School Robotics First Nations STEM team. “Our team did really well,” he said, pointing out the team is an all-rookie team, taking part in its first competition at this level.

“Time was a huge constraint for us as we were not back in person in school (due to the pandemic) until two weeks into the semester, which put us behind in building our robot,” said Mr. Mara. He explained the team finished its robot just a week before the competition, before the team had time to work on driving the robot and working out all the kinks for the actual competition.

At one point, the Wiikwemkoong team was in eighth place in the competition. “But every other participating team had taken part in another event to work out all their issues with the robot and this was something we hadn’t had the opportunity to do,” said Mr. Mara.

“We did well, but we didn’t make it to the championship round,” said Mr. Mara. “But we were competing against some very strong competition and against great teams. We were very pleased with our performance.”

He said it is expected the team will be going to the provincials, although he couldn’t confirm this officially at this time. 

“Our team did a great job in North Bay. Just to be on the field with our robot was a big achievement this year,” said Mr. Mara. “And to be on the field against world championship teams in North Bay was a great accomplishment.”

The MSS team includes Rhys Allison, Autumn Davy, Morgan Green, Nevaeh Harper, Jocelyn Kuntsi, Xavi Mara, Patrick McCann, Grace Pennie, Lindsay Sheppard, Danika Skippen, Alan Wilkin, Ben Williis and Alexandra Wilson-Zegil.

The Wikwemikong High School team includes Adrian Rampersad, Jane Hartley, Melissa Cooper, Cathy Harley, Jonas Assinewai, Marcus Beaudry, Tamara Bondy-Naokwegijig, Ben Lewis, Jordan Ominika-Cooper, Xavier Osawamick, Brayden Pangowish, Gavin Pangowish, Ash Recollet and Rakeja Wallace.