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Simbotics takes first


September 10, 2008
by Corinne Lynds

An inspired team of students from Governor Simcoe Secondary School in St. Catharines, Ont. can claim international bragging rights for robotics innovation. Future engineers on team 1114, also known as Simbotics, finished the year with a record of three regional wins, a chairman’s award, a championship division win and world champion status in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

The Simbotics robot out-classed its competitors on the game field performing a series of moves. The robots had to lift a giant game ball over a barrier in the centre of the field then complete a loop, picking up the ball as many times as possible within the nearly three-minute match. The Simbotics robot launched the ball over the barrier, so it racked up points by completing many more loops than its competitors.

“This competition gives students a really great opportunity to work with engineers from their local communities and see what it means to be an engineer,” says Karthik Kanagasabapathy, a systems analyst and mentor with the Simbotics team. “You can only learn so much in science and math class, this gives students valuable hands-on industry experience.”

FRC stages short competitions for autonomous and remote-controlled robots that are designed and built in six weeks (from a common set of parts) by a team of 15 to 25 high school students and a handful of industry mentors.

More than 1,300 teams from around the world compete at regional matches, with winners sent to a championship event in Atlanta, Ga. The St. Catharines’ team, sponsored by GM’s powertrain division, spent three hours a day for six weeks practicing with the robot leading up to the competition. “One of the reasons we have been so successful is because we actually have two robots—a competition robot and a replica that we take to a practice site and test,” explains seventeen-year-old Brandon Pruniak, one of Simbotics two co-captains.

They built the replica using parts from previous years’ robots and materials from their sponsors. This allows them to ship their robot the required six weeks before the competition and still be able to log long hours on the practice course with their replica.

Contact Corinne Lynds, editor of AutoPlant at corinne.lynds@plant.rogers.com.