The Dawson Robotics team brought home the Sportsmanship prize from the multidisciplinary CRC Robotics’ Arcanum 2022 competition held from April 28 to 30 at the École Curé-Antoine-Labelle.
During SPACEweek at Dawson, the team members took turns to present their work on the many facets of this year’s challenge — robot design and construction, programming, design and construction of a themed kiosk, video production, and website design. The team also won first place in the video production
category and second in the programming and kiosks competition.
“Some of us have done this in high school, but many of us haven’t,” said the Dawson Robotics team lead, Zachary Germain.
Several students said they had no experience prior to embarking on the team, and now wish to encourage students of all programs to consider getting involved in the world of robotics.
“We’re bringing robotics into the light,” said the team mentor, SPACE Coordinator, and Physics teacher, Joel Trudeau. “They demonstrated that everybody can participate in an elite robotics competition, starting from the basics and learning new skills in a dynamic team-spirited atmosphere. The peer mentorship within the team was so impressive and brought into focus the importance of process over outcome. The Dawson Robotics team has so much to be proud of!”
The main competition
At the heart of the competition lies the robot challenge. Our students designed, wired, and constructed a working robot whose goal was to work with the robots of four participating colleges and high schools. The task was to collect and transport golf balls, dubbed “nanobots,” to release them in various height-specific ways.
Our team’s robot subgroup split to work on separate mechanisms, including a pickup system and elevator while making sure the pieces fit in the robot’s overall design.
Then, the group’s programmers set up the robot’s “brain” and assured the smooth run of its functionalities throughout the event. They also competed in a separate programming competition during which they had to solve a series of problems under a tight deadline.
“It’s a fun way to use your programming skills and help your team out,” said Trevor Kirsch, who worked on the robot, programming, and kiosk.
Darcy Loane-Billings knew nothing about visual effects before this year’s competition. Due to COVID-19 setbacks, he switched his plan mid-filming to create a fully animated and bilingual video that presents the competition in a creative and innovative way in under five minutes. He welcomed the challenge to experiment and successfully advanced his video production skills.
An interactive kiosk
The kiosk is where the team stored all material and worked on the robot during the event. For first-timer, Diana Rekka, building the 12 ft x 12 ft kiosk turned out to be a major challenge due to Dawson’s space and storage deficiency. Thanks to the team’s will and determination, paired with the generous support of faculty and administration, she built a kiosk right out of the popular video game Portal.
“Portal presents a perfect example of what the CRC represents; a competition challenging all those solving problems, overcoming obstacles and achieving an experience of accomplishment after having completed something intellectually and creatively fulfilling,” read Diana’s statement.
The final result simulated a level of the game and featured many of its interactive components “to get people to come inside and get involved,” she said.
Documenting every step of the way
The challenges and lessons learned along the way can be found on a website developed by Tim Tianmen Wang with the support of Kyle Lei.
“The website is where the team gets to tell their story,” said Tim. “It’s really amazing to look back and see how much we managed to accomplish over the competition.”
An open invitation
According to Joel, this experience reaches beyond engineering and robotics. It touches on the idea of STEAM education by bridging the gap between the arts and sciences and helping students develop their problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership skills. A larger goal for teaching and learning is to implement a robotics-for-all approach that is exciting and inviting for students regardless of prior experience.
“We can all say that this year has been one of the most chaotic years we’ve ever had, but it was fun and we made a lot of memories,” said Zachary who is eager to welcome new recruits regardless of their experience level.
“You don’t need to have the best engineering experience to join,” he said. “All that matters is the effort you put in.”
To learn more about the Dawson Robotics team, see https://space.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/certificate/promotion/dawson_robotics