By Ron Giofu
The newly formed A-Team Robotics group has managed to pick up a major award in their first year together.
The robotics team, which meets at Centreline’s plant within the former SKD building, captured the Rookie All-Star award at FIRST Robotics’ Durham College event earlier this month. The robot that A-Team Robotics had to construct had to perform three tasks, with those tasks including climbing a four-foot rope, put a gear on a peg and put balls into various chutes.
Allan Parks, one of the coaches and mentors to the team, said the project all competitors had to work on was released Jan. 7. The teams had the same parameters and budget in which to work from but each team could devise how they would create their robot to meet the parameters.
The team is still fairly new, having only been created in October. Parks said most of the team is in Grade 9 and thought General Amherst High School would have its own team. When that fell through, A-Team Robotics was formed.
“When the school couldn’t commit to a team,” said Parks, “I decided to start a team myself.”
Centreline offered to let the team use part of their Amherstburg facility and the team meets there Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings as well as on Saturdays. That increases to seven days per week as competitions near.
The Durham College Event was the A-Team’s first big competition but not their last.
“The kids did amazingly well,” said Parks.
Parks said the team didn’t act as if it were a first year team as everyone they encountered in Oshawa thought they were experienced competitors.
“I was blown away by the maturity of this young team,” added coach/mentor Jeremie Bornais.
Bornais added he was impressed by the leadership of the mentors as well and also acknowledged the support of the community.
“It shows the support we have in Amherstburg and as a group,” said Bornais.
Comments heard at the Durham College event were that the team’s maturity outweighed their years, Bornais added.
Parks added the teams help each other out at FIRST Robotics events and it was no different for the A-Team Robotics group, as they assisted other teams as well.
The team had a budget of roughly $24,000 for the competition and they helped fund themselves by obtaining sponsorships. In addition to building the robot, they have to create a business plan and help market themselves through social media.
Parks believes robotics gives kids a head start in life as they learn about design, business, social media, technology and trades. They do everything from machining their own tools to writing the Java codes to run the robot.
“A lot of kids were starting from square one,” said Parks. “It’s giving them the skills they can use later in life.”
Parks said the students can compete for the jobs of tomorrow with the skills they are learning today and that robotics teams gives them real world experience at an early age.
The team currently has nine members “which is small by most team’s standards,” said Parks.
“We started from scratch,” he added, noting all but one of them is in Grade 9.
Team members include Adam Tronchin, Cassidy Zelle, Justin Bornais, Justin De Bont, Max Beadow, Mackenzie Parks, Kurtis Paquette, Ryan Harris and Devin Paquette. Coaches and mentors, other than Parks and Bornais, include Dan Paquette, Wanda Coull de Bont and Ludi de Bont.
“It feels good,” Tronchin said about winning the award. “We worked hard to win it.”
“I think we actually placed really well for a rookie team,” said Zelle.
Harris said he helped drive the robot and admitted he was nervous before doing it but the nerves wore off as he drove the robot in the competition. He added he was excited at the end of each round.
Tronchin pointed out they are learning skills for jobs down the road with Harris agreeing. Harris added the leadership from the mentors proved to be valuable as well.
“I really just enjoy everything I do. It’s a lot of fun,” added Zelle. “The people are great. You just have a great time.”
Justin Bornais said he didn’t know what some of the tools were beforehand and now has learned to use them. He said the experience on the robotics team has really been worth it.
“I really think new people would enjoy robotics as much as I do,” said Justin, adding they owe a lot to the sponsors, mentors and Centreline.
“The commitment is worth it,” added Harris.
Zelle said she enjoys coming to robotics and looks forward to coming.
“I always enjoy coming here and I want to come back,” she said.
The team competes next at the Windsor-Essex Great Lakes Event at the University of Windsor March 30-April 1. They hope to make it to the Ontario Championships, which will be April 12-15.
For more information on A-Team Robotics, visit their website a-teamrobotics.com. They can be found on social media as well, with their Twitter account being @a_robotics, their Facebook page being email@example.com and their Instagram account, which is a_team_robotics.