Robotics teacher Richard Audet explains the game’s rules. Michael Grace-Dacosta photo

Robotics Club puts on a show for Grade 4 students

Grade four students got a chance to ask members of the club questions and play with robots.

Grade 4 students from Walnut Park Elementary School got to play with robots Monday morning at Smithers Secondary School.

Students watched as members of the robotics club held a mock competition during robotics class.

Two teams competed in a 12 by 12-foot arena to stack the most cones in the designated zones as high as possible. Each team had two robots that are 18 inches tall, wide and long.

The mock battle was split into two periods: one 15-second autonomous period (robots move on their own) followed by one minute and 45 seconds of driver-controlled play.

Teams earn points by stacking cones in three different scoring zones: a five point zone, 10 point zone and a 20 point zone.

There are 80 cones that can be stacked up to 10. Having the highest stack in a zone earns a team five points. A bonus of 10 points is awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the autonomous period.

The team with the most points after both periods wins the match.

After the battle kids got to ask members of the club and other students in the class about building robots and the class itself.

“Eventually the students will be here and technology is more and more part of what we’re doing in school, so I think it’s a great experience to learn from other students,” said Walnut Park Elementary teacher Michelle Sasvari.

“They’re all excited but for some who already have that passion, it’s nice to have a connection to some older students who can share with them.”

The robotics club went to Vancouver on Dec. 7 for a Vex Robotics Competition at West Vancouver Secondary. The competition took place all day Saturday. It was a qualification event for the Pacific Youth Robotics Society Provincial Championship.

The competition was essentially a tournament where teams compete in the same game that was demonstrated to the Walnut Park students — with a twist.

Teams are made up students from different schools. So members of robotics club were put on to teams with kids from different schools and had to work together in the game.

Seventy-four teams from across the province as well as Hawaii and Washington State attended the qualifiers.

The robotics club didn’t qualify for provincials but one member, Calvin Marko, made the quarter-finals.

“A lot of robots were designed to do the other goals,” said robotics teacher Richard Audet. “[Mark’s robot] was really good at being a specialist at helping his team win because he could do something a lot of other robots couldn’t do, which was stack really high.”

The robotics club flew down to Vancouver Thursday night and planned to come back Saturday night but Marko’s unexpected performance caused them to miss their flight. They left Sunday morning instead.

“I felt a little bad because we missed our flight but it felt good [to make the quarter-finals],” said Marko.

The trip was sponsored by Smithers’ Suds ‘N Bay Wash & Store.

“I think it’s important for our kids who have an interest in electronics to go and see what’s out there,” said Suds ‘N Bay owner Angela Souter. “I hope that their interest has peaked and that this will help them to perhaps continue [robotics] in post secondary.”

This was only the club’s second competition. The club was formed last year when the school began offering robotics class. The class is available to all grades. The club has seven members in Grades 10 to 12.

It took the club three months to build the robots they brought to tournament.

“A lot of it is trial and error” said Audet. “Trying something out and then realizing ‘oh that’s not quite good enough we gotta try something else.’ Keep on that cycle and redesigning and then retrying … it’s like a continual cycle.”

Despite not making the cut at the tournament Audet said the club is optimistic about its chances at the Skills Canada robotics competition in March.

“As soon as they got back from the competition they were like, ‘oh I can make this better,’ and they started redesigning again,” said Audet. “They’re already pretty excited about what they can try to accomplish. I think we can do really well there.”

No matter what happens in March, thanks to the Monday’s demonstration the future of the club seems bright.

“I learned not to give up on this and just keep trying,” said Grade 4 Walnut Park student Adison Labonte. “When I looked at the robots I thought, ‘I can’t do this I’m never taking this class,’ but when they explained to me what they were doing and how the parts worked … I learned [it’s] simpler than I thought.”

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Walnut Park students play with a robot. (Michael Grace-Dacosta)

Josh Nelson works on a new robot. (Michael Grace-Dacosta)

Reinhard Jonker and Nathan Smith (Michael Grace-Dacosta)

Liam Sandberg, Darcy Fraser, Aidan Press, and Nolan Koenig (Michael Grace-Dacosta)

Grade 4 student looks on attentively. (Michael Grace-Dacosta)

Reinhard Jonker answers student’s questions. (Michael Grace-Dacosta)

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