The F.E. Madill robotics team is turning heads in its first year - April 13, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
The robotics club at F.E. Madill School is turning a lot of heads in its rookie year.
Called the Iron Stallions, for the school’s first initials (FE, the periodic symbol for iron) and its sports team, the Mustangs, the club is in 32nd place out of 160 teams across the province which teacher Shannon McGavin says is impressive for a rookie squad.
“They’re calling us ‘the little robot that could’,” she said with a laugh. “At our first event we won the Rookie Award and the Judge’s Award, and at our second competition we won the Rookie Inspiration Award.”
Robotic competitions are held through the non-profit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).
On Wednesday the club went to the provincial competition in Mississauga with their robot, AutoMac, also known as FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) 6461.
The robot was named for two of the large contributors to the club, D&D Automation and McGavin Farm Equipment.
The robot should, according to club members, be able to put a gear on a peg attached to an airship, climb a rope and load balls into a hopper, however the team decided not to be involved in the latter exercise.
“The ball project isn’t worth the points that are achieved through it,” Troy Walter said. “Many of the experienced teams didn’t participate in that part.”
Walter, alongside fellow club member Duncan Cameron, explained that the team had to rebuild their robot from the ground up prior to its first competition at the University of Western Ontario.
Until earlier this week, the team was still making plans for the robot, however, after that first competition, the robot must remain under wraps and can only be worked on prior to the events.
During their lunch breaks, team members gather around the robot, under a clear plastic wrap, and plan how they are going to address problems they ran into at the competitions.
It’s a challenge, however, as they have to go from diagrams and measurements they can get without unwrapping the robot, making brainstorming and teamwork even more of a necessity.
Justine Clark, a Grade 8 student who is a member of the club, has taken on some of the financial and planning aspects of the club.
“We needed $5,000 per competition and it’s gone O.K. so far,” she said. “This is our first year, so we weren’t 100 per cent prepared.”
Clark explained the group plans to go to this year’s International Plowing Match in Walton in September in hopes of spreading the word about the club and generating more funds for the club.
She joined the club hoping to learn about programming and has had some brushes with it, but she said she has a lot of fun with the business practices.
“The networking and meeting people have really been fun,” she said.
McGavin said the team is learning as it goes for its first year, having raised $10,000 for its first two competitions and looking for the remaining approximately $3,250 for this competition.
She said the group is looking for support from the community, both financially as well as anyone who has time to mentor the member of the club.
“We’re looking for anyone who can help out,” she said. “We can use expertise from financial institutions to business people and of course from engineers and manufacturing companies.”
To support the organization, visit www.canadahelps.org/dn/30526