Island high school teams prepare for First Robotics events

Four members of the Manitoulin Secondary School Metal Robotics team work on their robot for competition.

MANITOULIN—Two Manitoulin Island high school teams are gearing up for next month’s First Robotics Canada Ontario regional events. 

“Manitoulin Island was quite a powerhouse in robotics prior to the pandemic and are still going despite the ongoing challenges over the past few years,” stated Chris Mara, coach of the Wikwemikong High School Robotics First Nations Stem (science, technology, engineering and math) team which will be taking part in next month’s First Robotics Canada (FRC) competition in North Bay. 

Joining the Wikwemikong team will be the Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) Manitoulin Metal Robotics team.  “The first event we will be going to is the North York regional competition, taking place on Saturday March 25th at the York University robotics meet,” said Al Davy, the lead mentor for the MSS squad. “The following week we will also be taking part in the North Bay FRC regional competition.” 

Both teams will take part in the “rapid react” game in the competitions. “Basically, it is a transportation-focused event. Each robot controlled by a team has two tennis balls, and the robot travels to a large funnel in the middle of a field. They “throw” the tennis balls into an upper and lower funnel or net and gain points. There is a part of the game where the robot is autonomous (operates on its own) to do the same function. 

“And this year, one of the neat things is when robot is operating autonomously, one of the members of the team can take a shot with the tennis balls from a distance of 30 feet into the funnel, for points,” said Mr. Davy. Teams could start working on their robots on January 8. 

Mr. Davy pointed out, “At these meets, we are limited to having only 20 people on hand, although this might change given the lack of restrictions that are expected will be in place as of March 1.” Only 78 teams across the province will be taking part in competitions (about half of the number of teams in a normal year). The MSS team has three returning players, and the rest of the team is made up of grade 9 and 10 students.

Yana Bauer, a fellow mentor on the MSS team told the Expositor, “we have an amazing group of mentors to work with, including Katherine Corbiere, (who is teaching four female students how to weld), along with Caroline Black and Dianne Glasby-Debassige.

“Everyone has been so supportive,” stated Ms. Bauer. She said the MSS team members have applied for and are one of the semi-finalists for the First Robotics Team Chairman’s award (which Wikwemikong High School won at the world championship event in Houston two years ago), team member Joselyn Kuntsi is a semi-finalist for the Dean’s List and Allan Davy has been nominated for the Woodie Flower Mentor of the Year award.

The MSS team includes Rhys Allison, Autumn Davy, Morgan Green, Nevaeh Harper, Jocelyn Kuntsi, Xavi Mara, Patrick McCann, Grace Pennie, Lindsay Sheppard, Danika Sheppard, Alan Wilkin, Ben Willis and Alexandra Wilson-Zegil. Ms. Bauer noted the team is being sponsored by Manitoulin Transport, RBC, PH & Investment Council, Argosy Foundation, McCann Construction, the township of Assiginack and Christianna Jones.

Mr. Mara told The Expositor for the Wikwemikong High School team, “it’s been a tough go, getting started (with the pandemic). Last year the Wiky Manufacturing Technology students built individual team robots, they designed and built the robots from the ground up and had an in-school contest.”  

“This year, during the fall semester, the Wiky FTC teams designed and built a robot for this year’s FTC challenge and competed in a First Technological competition with other teams in Ontario (virtually).  

“An FTC Assiginack community team, made up of Sebasyian Mara, Xavier Mara, Ryan Kuntsi, and Dylan Kuntsi competed in and won the judges’ award in the Sudbury virtual event before Christmas,” said Mr. Mara. 

Mentors of the Wikwemikong High School Team include Adrian Rampersad, Jane Hartley, Melissa Cooper and Cathy Hartley.

Team members include Jonas Assinewai, Marcus Beaudry, Tamara Bondy-Naokwegijig, Ben Lewis, Jordan Ominika-Cooper, Xavier Osawamick, Brayden Pangowish, Gavin Pangowish, Ash Recollet and Rakeja Wallace.

The manufacturing technology class at Wikwemikong High School is building the FRC robot using drawings, designing the robot, and preparing it for the North Bay competition.

“This is our seventh year taking part,” said Mr. Mara. “The Wikwemikong High School team competed in the World Championship in 2018, winning the Chairman’s Award.” 

“The biggest constraint we have had as a team this year is that we have not been in school until a week ago (due to COVID-19) said Mr. Mara. “We just started building our robot. We are going to have to focus on some essentials and still build within limits. I’m sure we will do well.” He said fundraising is also a big part of the competition and that there has been good support from the community.

“We (MSS) weren’t able to compete last year, and everyone was sitting on the fence as to what we would do this year. Then the team decided to take a shot at it again this year,” said Mr. Davy. 

“The kids are super excited and gaining momentum,” echoed Ms. Bauer.