MUSKOKA LAKES - The winning team of a national robotics competition in Muskoka would like to see their robots used in space.
A robotics team from York University in Toronto won first place in the Innovation Nation Robotic Competition held in Minett on Tuseday. The team designed a robot they said they think every astronaut should take with them on inter-stellar missions. YURT CSII 2012 (left to right): Shailja Sahani, Glen Berseth, Mrunal Amin, Steve Sutherland (President & CEO of Crosswing, one of our sponsors), Oyinda Daramola, Dennis Liu (in front), Alex Estermann (in back), Isaac DeSouza and Valerie McCarrol.
YURT, the York University Rover Team, was one of eight high school, college and university teams from throughout Ontario that competed at the second annual Innovation Nation Robotics Competition on July 10.
“Our rover is what we believe an astronaut would or should take with them if he was about to go on some inter-stellar travel,” said Isaac DeSouza, one of the students who is going into his third year of space engineering at York.
The rover was designed by a student-run group at York University made up of students studying engineering, physics, biology and fine arts.
The fine arts student is one of the people behind the business aspect of things, and an excellent bake-saler, who organized the bake sale events that raised money for the team.
“We literally baked our way into a robot,” said DeSouza. The team entered three competitions this year, all with different requirements, so the robot had to be able to mine, do scientific research and do search and rescue.
The team received a $1,750 prize for their work. The Kinetic Knights from Kincardine and District Secondary School placed first in the high school division of the competition, also receiving $1,750 for their robot, while BeaverworX from Our Lady of Lourdes CHS in Guelph received the platinum award for $5,000.
Mehran Anvari, scientific director and CEO for the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation, said the competition was designed to get youth involved in robotics.
“I think Canada has been a leader in innovation for decades, and I think we need to celebrate that, recognize that, and encourage our new, young children to be innovative,” he said.
Jeff Berkley, founder, chairman and CEO of Mimic Technologies, spoke at the robotics conference the day before the competition about his experience in building a robotics business right out of college.
It took him nine years of trials and going through the food stamp lines before he finally reached his first success.
Right after school was a great time to start because you’re used to being poor, he said.
In 2010 they released a simulation platform, which became the most rapidly adopted simulation platform in medical history.
“We went from standing in the food stamp lines to being very, very profitable almost overnight,” he said.
He said a key to success is perseverance. Coming out of school you think you know a lot, but there’s still so much to learn about things like markets and customers, he said.
“In school you can take everything to about 90 per cent then stop. In manufacturing, it’s that last 10 per cent that’s really hard.”
Most of the YURT team wants to continue working with robots in some way after they complete school — depending on the economy, they all added.
Due to events like the robotics conference and competition, they rub shoulders with many people already in the industry, giving them a selection of job options. They’ve also got to know each other very well.
“We’re close enough friends that we know each other’s sleeping habits,” said DeSouza.
After all the competitions and road trips though, they’re planning to relax for a little while.