MSS robotics team inspires younger kids through outreach

Students on Manitoulin Secondary School’s robotics team, Manitoulin Metal, prepare robot Sam for a demonstration at Little Current Public School.

by Maureen Strickland

LITTLE CURRENT—All you could hear at the Little Current Public School gym were “oohs and aaahs” from the fifth graders as Sam the Robot threw two large balls  into the air.

‘Sam’ is the robot built, programmed and operated by the Manitoulin Secondary School’s (MSS) Robotics Team, Manitoulin Metal.  Sam is about four feet tall and as Grade 8 student Taylor Goodfellow summarized, “Impressive!”

The team has been on a tour of all the elementary schools on the Island since May 18.  After the morning spent at Little Current Public School the tour ended at Assiginack Public School in the afternoon of May 27.

Outreach is one of the mandates of the Manitoulin Metal’s robotics team.

At each school, the MSS team welcomed classes from Grades 4 and up to learn about the robotics team and have a chance to interact with the robots.

Grade 9 student and robotics team member, Alexandra Wilson-Zegil, addressed Mr. Fessenden’s Grade 5 and Ms. Aelick’s Grade 8 class on Friday morning. Ms. Wilson-Zegil made sure to define STEM to the students–science, technology, engineering and math.

According to Ms. Wilson-Zegil, the elementary school tour is, “really important to get them introduced to technology and STEM, especially coming from a rural area. Exposing the younger kids to this before high school encourages them to get involved in STEM.”

Then the fun part began at the interactive stations.

At one station, students used controls to get smaller robots (that looked a bit like blue bulldozers) to pick up rings and put them over a post. These robots were built earlier in the year by the MSS robotics team.

In the far corner of the gym another group, kneeling on the floor was busy building a robot out of Lego. Each class adds to the Lego robot, culminating in a school-built robot at the end of the two hour session.

And the biggest draw at the centre of the gym was playing catch with Sam.

Time flies when you are having this much fun and, all too quickly, it was time to gather the students for a group photo with Sam.

The students were left with a challenge to participate in the Manitoulin Metal’s Spring Design Challenge to create a robot that plants trees.  The challenge is for Grades K-12.  The deadline is June 10 and the details can be found at

Grade 8 teacher April Aelick summed up the importance of the outreach by Manitoulin Metal to her students who will be going to MSS in the fall. “It’s a connection. It shows them what is available beyond sports. It’s new and different and gets the students excited.”