By Ron Giofu
Though the robotics team at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School didn’t make the playoffs at the FIRST Robotics Great Lakes regional competition, they still found a way to advance to robotics world championships.
The Villanova WiredCats – a play off their school’s “Wildcats” nickname – captured the rookie all-star award at the April 6-9 regionals at the University of Windsor and ensured a trip to the world championship in St. Louis in the process. The team features 28 Villanova students, 11 females and 17 males, with team member and Grade 9 student Lily Jacobs calling it the “opportunity of a lifetime.”
“I think I cried the hardest,” added Grade 12 student Kathleen Beach.
Dan Cordeiro, another Grade 12 student, said they were “bummed out” about not making the playoffs at regionals but were elated to win the rookie all-star award.
“Everything worked out,” said Jacobs. “The positivity we had was just outstanding.”
Judges not only evaluated each team’s robot, including Villanova’s “Patches” robot, but interviewed team members, looked at the support each team had, their social media presence and looked at the whole operation.
“We all work together really well,” said Cordeiro.
Beach added there are a variety of different age levels with students from Grade 9-12 involved with the WiredCats. She said there are five “sub-teams” with mechanical, programming, design, electrical and business teams comprising the overall group.
“Patches” is known as a “retriever robot” but is now being worked on further in preparation for worlds with changes being made, some of which includes its ability to lift gates and objects. There is a medieval theme that is also part of the championships, with team members also crafting chainmail out of pop tabs.
The world championships are April 27-30 and while they obviously want to do as well as they can, Beach added they “want to make it crazy and big and be the best team we can be.”
The WiredCats have also developed friendships along the way, including trading buttons and pins from teams from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, southwestern Ontario and even a team from Poland. They have also become mentors to younger students and are using their team to help attract prospective students to Villanova.
“Our team is busy non-stop trying to leave positive messaging,” said Beach, who plans to return to Villanova with Cordeiro as mentor to the team after the graduate.
“We are hoping to inspire others,” added Jacobs.
The WiredCats, also known by their team number of 5885, also had a member possibly make the FIRST Dean’s List. Alex Drazilov, who is the head programmer, was named to the list as a finalist.