Wiikwemkoong High School robotics team ranked among top contenders at North Bay

    The Wiikwemkoong High School First Robotics team rocked this year’s competitions. Team members pose with their creation at the North Bay competitions, front row: Chris Mara (mentor), Dehmin Eshkawkogan, Cole Baibomcowai, Mikaila Dokum and Angel Peltier. Back row: Trinity Jacko, Patrina Pitawanakwat, Eileen Letander Trudeau, Mark Gibeault (Mentor), Reynold Assiniwe, Tim Pitawanakwat, Alex Desmoulin, Kendra Wassengesso, Jason Mishibinijima, Geordan Lewis, David Jackson and Annie Wemigwans.

    WIIKWEMKOONG—Team 5672’s robot took on the best from across the North at a steampunk themed battleground to prove that the students of Wiikwemkoong High School rank among the top contenders in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.

    “To be only in our third year and to have been alliance captains two of our three years is a remarkable accomplishment,” said senior team mentor Chris Mara. “It is a tribute to the effort the team puts into the build and maximizing our problem solving between competitions.”

    The team’s latest outing was at the North Bay District event at Nipissing University April 6 to 8.

    It had previously competed at an event at Durham College earlier this spring.

    Wiikwemkoong High School First Robotics team member Eileen Letander Trudeau stands next to her teams robot at the North Bay event.

    “After the Durham College competition, the team identified some areas of development based on how the gameplay itself developed,” said Mr. Mara. “We did not expect this year’s game to evolve as a gear game. This meant that we had to reconfigure our climber and our gear intake to make us more competitive. Teams are allowed six hours of unbag time the week before the competition to work on the robot. Our build team worked to make every minute count in re-configuring our robot.”

    The team was up for the challenge, however, as they worked feverishly to rework their metal and wire creation to meet the unanticipated parameters discovered at Durham.

    “Our team continues to grow from the original six members in our first year,” noted Mr. Mara. “We travelled with 16 team members this year.” While much has been made of the lack of female engagement in the STEM fields these days, Anishinabekwe play a major role in the Wiikwemkoong effort. “Young women continue to be involved in all aspects of the robot build and team development,” noted Mr. Mara.

    It was all hands on deck, noted Mr. Mara, as the challenges came fast and furious during this year’s event.

    “During the event, we had to work out several major kinks,” said Mr. Mara. “First, we noticed that the gear piece was coming off of the loading station and jamming in the intake.” To tackle the issue, the team fashioned a sleeve out of aluminum and changed the angle of how the piece was received, noted Mr. Mara. “Then, during a couple of matches, the team noticed that the robot was shorting out during hard driving. After checking for voltage issues, the team tightened up the wiring in the power distribution panel. We were also able to tweak our autonomous code to deliver a gear to the loading peg to capitalize on some early points.”

    With those kinks sorted out, Wiikwemkoong finished the second day of qualification rounds nicely placed 11th out of 26 teams.

    “As alliances are chosen by the captains, spaces open up,” said Mr. Mara. “Given our position, we wound up being one of the eight alliance captains. We have been alliance captains two of our three years, which is a remarkable accomplishment for such a young team.  It is a tribute to the team’s dedication and hard work in the build.”

    Mr. Mara noted that “the team is looking forward to promoting STEM, showing our robot to the community and doing further outreach. We will be attending a ‘women in FIRST’ conference in May. We have also been selected as a feature team for the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis.  FIRST (Robotics) sent two video producers up to create a short feature about our team for their VIP event. Sponsors include, NASA, Google, IBM, Microsoft, FEDEx, Cisco, General Electric and the US Secretary of State for Education.”

    Great things lie in the future for the Wiikemkoong Team 5672.