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Members of Catholic Central High School’s Electric Comets robotics team compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition at the St. Denis Centre on Friday, March 29.Members of Catholic Central High School’s Electric Comets robotics team compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition at the St. Denis Centre on Friday, March 29.

Robotics rooters set fieldhouse rocking

The St. Denis Centre was rocking into the weekend as hundreds of high school students descended on the campus for the annual FIRST Robotics district competition.

Forty teams from as far away at Toronto and St. Catharines competed in the Windsor Essex Great Lakes District competition. The teams competed for a chance to qualify for the provincial championship April 10 to 13.

The University of Windsor is always pleased to host the event, said Michelle Bondy, experiential learning specialist.

“This is a great competition because of the skills these kids are learning,” Bondy said. “They’re learning technical skills, showing their creativity and problem solving. These are skills we want in our students.”

The four Grade 12 students from Saints Bot, the 33-member team from St. Anne Catholic High School in Lakeshore, will be attending the University of Windsor in the fall.

“Being here is great and the robotics program overall is just a wonderful thing,” said David Hewitt, who will enter the co-op program in business administration at UWindsor in September.

Hewitt is a “scout” for his robotics team, compiling the statistics on other teams’ robots and creating data sheets.

“That’s my thing,” he said, explaining it’s a skill he will hone through his schooling and use in a future career.

He said the event is fun, but “our No.1 goal is to win.”

Teams tinkered with their robots to optimize their performance in between rounds. During the qualifying rounds, teams had to maneuver their robots in the ring, completing such tasks as placing large orange balls in bins or attaching flat rings to vertical surfaces.

All the while, teammates not on the competition floor chanted from the stands, cheering on their robots and dancing to the music over the loudspeakers.

FIRST Robotics Canada is a registered charity whose goal is to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

─ Sarah Sacheli