Waterloo’s Physical Activities Complex (PAC) swapped sports for robotics, hosting the twelfth Waterloo FIRST Robotics Waterloo Regional Competition over the April 1st weekend. FIRST Robotics is a Canadian and American competition of high school student teams who build 140-pound robots in only 6 weeks to compete at regional events, with winning teams moving on to an annual national championship. The teams are supported by professional engineers, mentors, teachers and corporate sponsors. Each year teams are presented with a new game challenge to tackle.

Competitive Robot at FIRST Robotics Waterloo 2016

FRC team THEORY6 #1241 out of Mississauga storming the Stronghold obstacle

This year’s game, FIRST Stronghold™, is medieval-themed, fast-paced game played by teams of robots. Their quest is to breach their opponents’ fortifications, weaken their tower with boulders, and capture the opposing tower. During the final 20 seconds of each match, robots may surround and scale the opposing tower to capture it.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Waterloo Regional is one of a series of five FRC regionals held in Ontario. The competitions are organized by FIRST Robotics Canada and the Ontario FRC Regionals are sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Bruce Power, Synnex, Scotiabank, Centerline, and a number of other leading engineering and technology companies.

Volunteer Chair and Director of Waterloo Engineering Sedra Student Design Centre, Peter Teertstra

Volunteer Chair and Director of Waterloo Engineering Sedra Student Design Centre, Peter Teertstra

Regional robotics competition hosted by Waterloo Engineering

Waterloo Engineering Sedra Student Design Centre Director, Peter Teertstra is the Chair of the volunteer committee that hosts the Waterloo regional finals.  “This local event began from the commitment of Rob Gorbet, Chair of the Department of Knowledge Integration, previously a professor of electrical and computer engineering,  and Mark Breadner, Director, FIRST Robotics Canada,” says Peter. “They started this event and grew it to what it is now – the premiere event in Ontario and Canada and a key regional  for competitors across North America.”

This latest regional completion drew a number of world-champion FIRST Robotics teams, one from as far away as Greenville, Texas. “This regional Tweet from Teamcompetition is said to offer up the strongest, most competitive teams which is why Team #148, the RoboWranglers came all the way to Waterloo to compete in this pool,” confirmed Peter.

Considering the substantial effort it takes to host the three-day event, for the teams and crowds of hundreds of enthusiastic fans, Peter’s team of volunteers are truly committed to putting on a great event. “We hope that for Waterloo Engineering, our commitment indicates to supporters and families, and to robotics enthusiasts, that we truly value hands-on, experiential learning, and starting a passion for engineering early.”

Hands-on robotics learning experience

The FIRST Robotics program gives high school students real-world engineering experience and ideally inspires students to think about a rewarding career in Engineering. “I’m excited about the kid who is really good using their hands and would have never thought themselves capable of doing Engineering at a university. Hopefully, they’re going to think ‘I do enjoy design and maybe I’ll send in my application and see what happens.’” Peter adds, “If you’re a high school student sitting up there in the bleachers watching this, we want you to think about what [competitors] are doing and take that back to your school and think about ‘how can I do that?’”

FRC team Renaissance Robotics #4525 from St. Thomas in the pits after a competition round

FRC team Renaissance Robotics #4525 from St. Thomas in the pits after a competition round

FIRST does more than high school robotics competitions, such as inspiring a passion for building and innovating through FIRST Lego League for grades 4 to 8 and FIRST Lego League Jr for ages 6 to 9. The experiences started at these early ages then fuels future engineers motivation to study hard and learn to problem solve. Many become part of the maker culture.

FIRST philosophy of teaching teamwork, building industry connections and creating broad technological literacy are aligned with Waterloo Engineering. If you are ready to contribute to the positive outcomes from the FIRST and Waterloo Engineering partnership, you can roll up your sleeves and volunteer, mentor or sponsor. Start right here: http://www.firstroboticscanada.org