Wikwemikong High School science students developing Manitoulin’s first industrial robot

Wikwemikong robotics team (and supporters) gather with industrial robot 2.0, still in early stages of construction. Teacher/mentor Chris Mara is joined by team members Reginald Assinewe, Timothy Pitawanakwat, Ilene Trudeau and Annie Wemigwans and the robot in the hallway outside their laboratory at Wikwemikong High School. The robot marks a milestone as Manitoulin’s first industrial robot. photo by Michael Erskine

WIKWEMIKONG—A team of dedicated science students at Wikwemikong High School have been huddled in the lab for the past several months designing Manitoulin Island’s first industrial robot from the ground up. The team plans to enter the US Robotics FIRST competition regionals in North Bay March 26-28.

Under the guidance of Wikwemikong teacher Chris Mara, students Reginald Assinewe, Timothy Pitawanakwat, Ilene Trudeau and Annie Wemigwans have invested their weekends and winter break periods in the project.

Each year the competition reaches more than 58,000 students on over 2,700 teams in competitions held across the world. The teams come from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the UK and every state in the US.

According to US Robotics, the competitions are “high-tech spectator sporting events, the result of lots of focused brainstorming, real-world teamwork, dedicated mentoring, project timelines and deadlines.”

Colleges, universities, corporations, businesses, and individuals provide scholarships to the participants. The benefits for the mentors involved, particularly engineers, again experience many of the reasons they chose engineering as a profession, notes US Robotics, and the companies they work for contribute to the community while they prepare and create their future workforce.

According to US Robotics, the competition shows students that the technological fields hold many opportunities and that the basic concepts of science, math, engineering and invention are exciting and interesting-an assertion that Mr. Mara heartily agrees.

The students teased their mentor about the many weekends he has dedicated to the project, coming in even on Valentine’s Day to supervise their efforts. “I do it because you are worth it,” he deadpans in reply.

The many skills the students learn and hone through the competition will stand them in good stead when they move on to post-secondary education, noted Mr. Mara.