HUNTSVILLE – Gizmos and gadgets are soon to be a group of high school students’ area of expertise.
Robotics students from North Bay present one of their projects at Huntsville High School on Dec. 8. The robot, a remote controlled rectangular device on wheels, grabs and shoots soccer balls.
The Huntsville High School students, supported by faculty member Ian McTavish and integrated learning technology consultant Denise Jordan, will spend three months in the new year building a nearly 120-pound robot to send to a competition in southern Ontario in March.
“We wanted to promote technology as a pathway, and engage students in extracurricular activities that aren’t the normal, everyday activities,” said McTavish, who is the high school’s robotics club teacher adviser.
He spoke to the Forester during a robotics demonstration held in the high school’s cafeteria by Near North Student Robotics Initiative on Dec. 8.
The demonstration gave club members some inspiration and encouraged students who were interested in joining the club to do so.
McTavish will travel to Waterloo in early January for top-secret instructions on what kind of robot the students will have to build and what tasks the robot must be able to accomplish.
Students will have until the end of March to finish the robot before they truck it down to the University of Waterloo for the 2012 First Robotics Canada Waterloo regional competition.
McTavish said the project would cost a minimum of $7,000. If the high school’s team qualifies for the robotics world championship in St. Louis, Missouri, it could easily cost $20,000, he said.
The club already has some sponsors, including Trillium Lakelands District School Board, First Robotics Canada and the Canadian Space Agency.
However, McTavish said the club is eager to find more sponsors. It would also like to partner with anyone who has a background in engineering.
The club is working with several departments at the high school, including English, art, math and design, making the robot a multi-discipline project.
Jordan noted the school board has a robotics program in its elementary schools, which involves 200 students creating robots out of Lego.
Organizers said they want to build on the success of the elementary program by expanding to the high school. Near North Student Robotics Initiative is a student robotics club from North Bay. According to its faculty adviser Nancy Dewar, the North Bay club will act as the official mentor of the Huntsville club during its first competition year.
Dewar said having another club relatively close to North Bay will not only give both groups more opportunities to practice, but it will also enhance team building and co-operation.
“We like to call it co-opertition,” she said, combining the words co-operation and competition.
Dewar said robotics programs are important because they can have a positive, life-changing effect on students. Moreover, it teaches them a variety of skills, she said.
Martin Gagné, captain of the North Bay team, said he appreciates the experience he has gained from the program.
“High school robotics is the best learning opportunity,” said Gagné, 17, who has been with his club for six years since joining in elementary school. “Lots of students don’t know what they want to do until they join.”
The enthusiastic student now knows he wants to be a mechatronics engineer, which is a new career that combines software, electrical, computer, system design and mechanical engineering.
Gagné said he is also an athlete, but the learning experience and team atmosphere draw him to robotics.
“There is nothing like robotics,” he said with a grin. “At competitions, there are hundreds of robo-nerds cheering their heads off.”