Gulf Islands robotics team to compete in Victoria

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The Gulf Islands Secondary School robotics team is gearing up for a competition in Victoria in mid-March.

For the second year in a row, the Cyber Scorpions will compete in the Canadian Pacific Regional F.I.R.S.T. robotics competition. F.I.R.S.T. is a program that lets high school students build skills and experiences that will eventually lead them to careers in science, technology and engineering. A series of competitions are held across North America where students design robots to fulfill certain tasks.

“It’s a student-led activity,” said Hannah Lawson, GISS student and head of the business team for the Cyber Scorpions. “The adults are mainly only there because for one we need teachers to be involved so that we can actually do it . . . and two we need teachers to be involved so that they

can teach us how to program, how to fabricate and how to write out a budget.”

Not only do teams build an industrial-sized robot with limited resources, they must also raise funds, design a brand for their team and complete the goal of building a robot from scratch in six weeks.

Tom Boland, a GISS student and the lead programmer for the team who also competed at last year’s event, explained that the process is designed much like a video game would be.

“On the field there are three balance scales, two lower ones on each end and a taller one in the middle, about five or six feet high. The idea is that we have to pick up the cubes and put them on the scales. Depending on which side each balance is tipped, either your team gets points or the other team gets points. Each second that you own one of them you get a point.”

While the program is run by the students, teachers and community volunteers play a big role with the team. Local mentors are Greg Slakov, Doug Chapman, Kenn Danner, Lochinvar Roome, Dan Perry and Rachel FitzZaland, who have given their time and expertise to help the students succeed. The team also depends on community businesses. Windsor Plywood and Bellavance Welding have both donated materials.

“This program really wouldn’t exist without [the volunteers],” said FitzZaland, lead mentor for the team and a GISS teacher. “They’ve spent many long nights in the GISS shop and computer lab.”

The competition takes place on March 15 and 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Save on Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria. Everyone is encouraged to come watch.

The team is currently fundraising for their trip to Victoria. Funds are needed for transportation and accommodation. Anyone who would like to support the team can donate at https://fundrazr.com/cyberscorpions.

For more on this story, see the Feb. 21, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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