The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is a high school robotics competition that sees teams from across the province design, manufacture, assemble, program, and compete with 125 lb robots.
FRC has been in Canada since the late 1990s, with many successful teams advancing to - and even winning - the world championship over the years. Prior to the pandemic, there were around 165 teams in Ontario, and while numbers are down this year, there will still be 125 teams running.
The robots that the students build can travel at up to 15 ft/s and play a 3 on 3, full contact 'sport', on a basketball sized-court. Testing their creations in competition is what really differentiates this from a science fair project. Despite the drive to win though, FIRST is quite different than any other sport. The notion of Gracious Professionalism is baked into the culture of FIRST. Teams help each other to succeed, they repair other team's robots, lend parts, and share ideas. The very nature of the competition - where competitors may be allies in one match and opponents in another - ensures that it is in everyone's interest to maximize the performance of all teams. This is one 'sport' where there is no trash talking and no gloating.
Every January, a new game is released to the world. The game manual details the rules that robots need to work within - but provides no guidance on how to achieve the game tasks. There is no kit and no instruction manual. Over 2 months, students will strategize ideas and design a robot - they will prototype and iterate on designs, make custom parts, and put it all together to make a machine that will hopefully excel on the field. Highly successful teams meet 12 months of the year - attending off-season events, participating in outreach, and taking on summer projects.
Teams consist of high school students - boys and girls from grades 9 to 12. They are mentored by teachers, engineers, parents, and community volunteers. Teams work with companies to secure funding, and compete at venues across the province and into the US.
This past season's challenge involved picking up oversized tennis balls from the field, shooting them into a goal, and climbing a set of monkey bars. Teams automated many of these processes with sensors and machine vision. As you may imagine these are not easy tasks - and it is remarkable what these high school students are able to accomplish.
The Club's General Meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at
Faith United Church, 1778 Nash Road in Courtice, 7:00 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.