Western Engineering and FIRST Robotics Reward High School Ingenuity


Western Engineering News | Friday, April 13, 2018

Western University’s Thompson Arena was recently transformed from a quiet and cold ice surface to a rowdy battle pit for mechanical gladiators controlled by teams of high school students who acted as mechatronic creators and robot-pilots.

Last weekend, Western Engineering hosted its second annual FIRST Robotics Competition –District Event – Often referred to as “the varsity sport of the mind”.

FIRST Robotics Canada is a non-profit organization, which has made it their mission to “inspire young people to pursue further studies and careers in the field of science, technology and engineering.” Based on core values such as gracious professionalism, ‘coopertition’ (cooperation and competition), respect for diversity and inclusion volunteerism, FIRST Robotics Canada has been able to organize and hold robotics competitions since 2002. This year’s event saw over 1,000 students and spectators and 38 teams, each with their own robotic creations battling, making alliances and overcoming technical obstacles.

“This event is part of Western Engineering’s larger outreach strategy assisting youth from both elementary and secondary levels to experience STEM in a positive way,” says Andrew Hrymak, Dean of Western Engineering. Further, Western Engineering offers a FIRST Robotics Entrance Scholarship to a student entering full-time undergraduate studies in the Faculty of Engineering who has participated in the FIRST Robotics Competition Team (FRC) in high school.

This year’s theme, ‘Power Up’, challenged teams to take on one another in obstacles like manipulating control switches and scales, earning boosts like levitation and even climbing and hanging from structures. Students had to employ engineering, coding and design skills in order to program and test their machines, but equally as important, they had to use well-coordinated teamwork and alliances to be successful in accruing points.

Although the main event is the fast-pace action of competing robots, the competition provides a number of other opportunities like mentorship, networking lunches, and even spontaneous dance parties. On the first day of competition, a Women in Engineering Networking lunch was held for the participating female high school students interested in pursuing a degree in STEM to meet female members of Western Engineering.

Whether it was the excitement of battling robots, the roar of a packed stadium, or the students, referees and judges cutting a rug to the Village People’s YMCA, this year’s FIRST Robotics District Competition showed us a promising next generation of science and technology heroes.