Governor Simcoe aims for FIRST

Working on it late every school night and even more on the weekends, the robotics team at Governor Simcoe Secondary School have said good-bye to their creation.

At least for now.

On Tuesday, members for team competing in the (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program were at Diamond Jubilee School in Niagara Falls, where they had set up a practice area, to pack up their robot, Simbot SS, and send it away to Chicago, where they will compete against other high school teams in the midwest regional competition at the University of Illinois.

Though the team, called Team 1114, has done well at and has qualified for the world championship more than once, Governor Simcoe is only in its fifth season in the program, which started in 1989. Despite that, the team has earned a reputation for excellence, picking up 40 awards to become the team with the fourth highest number of wins.

A world title still eludes them, though, but tech director Greg Phillips said that could change at this year’s championship scheduled for April 17-19 in Atlanta, Georgia.

He said the team, which includes 24 students and 10 mentors in the form of University of Waterloo students and engineers from General Motors Powertrain, worked well this year, finishing the robot a week ahead of schedule.

“It’s looking really good this year,” he said. “We’ve got a very good team.”

Phillips said their robot has the potential to score a lot of points in autonomous mode, the 15-second portion of the match when the robots on the course move without being controlled by human drivers. Of course, that all depends on the five other robots on the course.

The competition involves six robots, three on each team, which must maneuver on a course only unveiled to the teams during the first week of January. It is only then that schools are able to begin designing and building their robots based on the tasks on the course.

This year’s course is an oval-shaped track, similar to a NASCAR track but with a platform suspended above it and bisecting the course at the half-way point. On the platform are four 40-inch diameter rubber balls that must be knocked down and carried by the robots along the course. Points are scored during the two-minute, 15-second matches based on the number of rotations around the track and how well the balls are maneuvered.

Team 1114 programmed their robot to be able to knock the balls off the platform during autonomous mode, which can earn them eight points.

Grade 11 student Brandon, one of 10 members of the team to pull an all-nighter Monday at Diamond Jubilee putting the finishing touches on Simbot SS, said there were some tough challenges to overcome when building the robot. The hardest, he said, involved having to completely redesign the cylinder part used to shoot the balls over the platform. Their first design was not near strong enough.

“We put a lot of hours into this robot,” he said.