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Robotics competition is more than just a game at Lourdes

A team of students, alumni and other mentors at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School are finalizing its entry into the FIRST robotics competition later this month
Laszlo Szugyi, from left, Reli Desosa and Dominik Wrobel, pose with the 'Road Runner' at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School. BeaverworX will take its latest creation into the FIRST robotics competition in Waterloo later this month.

It may be March Break, but several Guelph students are still busy beavers ahead of a FIRST Robotics Canada competition later this month.

Team 2609 – nicknamed BeaverworX – is a collection of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School students and mentors building a robot set for battle.

And no, these aren't robots going head-to-head like the American TV show BattleBots.

These robots are being designed to complete a task, both autonomously and by human command. This year, the theme of the competition revolves around sustainable energy.

"It's stiff competition," said Dominik Wrobel, a Grade 12 student at Lourdes and team captain.

"A lot of these teams have great scouting teams, they have great drive trains and we're going to have to see what works, and see what doesn't when it comes to how we play."

About 25 to 30 people are part of BeaverworX, from computer designers and engineers, to those working hands-on putting the robot together, and teams keeping a close eye on the competition by scouting other FIRST Robotics matches streamed online.

Wrobel has been with the team since he first entered high school.

He's heading to university in the fall, with the goal of getting a job in computer engineering or computer programming. Wrobel said putting robotics on his resume is huge.

"It's been a real help," he said of being a part of the team. "I'm applying my 3D modelling skills in computer engineering right now. Robotics has been super helpful throughout the years."

But it's not just the technical side, there have been some life lessons along the way.

"(I learned) there's a lot of trial and error when it comes to projects," he said. "It's never going to work the first time, so you have to communicate with your team, you have to learn how to work as a team and make sure that you are clear when it comes to what needs to be changed, and how it needs to be changed."

Wrobel has plenty of help around him. Many of the mentors are Lourdes alumni who come back year after year.

"I enjoyed it while I was a kid, I enjoy teaching other kids. I just like giving back," said Henry Nguyen, a 26-year-old who now works as a digital designer at the University of Waterloo.

He said it's fun, and he enjoys being a part of the robotics community at the school.

"I just enjoy coming back and teaching the next generation of students," said 24-year-old Laszlo Szugyi, who has been volunteering since 2016 and works as a mechanical designer in the automotive sector.

However, he enjoys teaching so much, he's planning to head to teacher's college in the fall so he can teach tech one day.

"It's so important for these kids today, to be given this opportunity," said Michael Moore, the lead mentor on the team and Lourdes teacher.

"You're not able to give these kinds of skills in a day-to-day school. You can give them little snippets here and there, but nothing that pulls it altogether into a challenge that the kids get excited about."

The competition itself provides students an opportunity to meet new people and do great things.

"Even later on, when you go to university and you find out somebody else was on a different team (and went through the same thing), it (creates) a bond," said Reli Desosa.

With all this brain power at work, the team is hoping its latest creation – named The Road Runner – will power them to victory at UW March 23-25.

There is still some work ahead of them before that, as they put the final touches on the robot.

Since it's a competition, some aspects are being kept secret.

But the ultimate goal is to charge through the competition and land in Houston, Texas, the site of the FIRST robotics world championship in April.


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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a longtime journalist and broadcaster, who has worked in several Ontario markets.
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