Governor Simcoe students create robotics teaching app

Simbot showing off the SimPhone app

When it comes to robotics, Governor Simcoe Secondary School has been leading the way in Niagara for quite some time.

Simbotics, Team 1114 is a group of approximately 25 students between the ages of 13 and 18 working to pursue their interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The team competes in a yearly challenge where they build a robot to do tasks, trying to outperform other teams from across the country and in some cases, the world. Mentors from the community, usually previous robotics team members who have since graduated from high school, help the students by volunteering their time and expertise.

Governor Simcoe has been quite successful in the program. In past years they have taken home several championships, making a number of appearances at both the regional and world championship events and have even been featured on TV programs. Now, the students in the program are taking the tools they’ve used to achieve success and sharing them with the world.
This summer Grade 12 student Adam Cadot set about creating a free app, SimPhone, for Apple products, including iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. Available through the iTunes store, the software program is a comprehensive resource that teaches the fundamentals of competitive robotics. Through tutorials, tips and even a step-by-step building guide, SimPhone is aimed at helping rookie and veteran teams better themselves on and off the competition field.

“We already had a bunch of our resources available online,” said Cadot. “It was just a matter of putting it all in one place that could be easily downloaded.”

While Cadot said he and his fellow teammates expected there to be interest around Ontario and some areas in the US, they didn’t expect it to get quite the response it has received. SimPhone launched on Jan. 3, 2012 and within the first week there had already been more than 1,000 downloads from 57 different countries. It was highlighted as the main feature on the Canadian App Store in the “reference” section.

“We definitely didn’t expect this,” said Cadot, explaining FIRST, the competition program which SimPhone is built around, isn’t even operating in 57 countries. “There are people downloading this app in countries that aren’t even participating in this robotics program.”

In addition to a number of technical resources, SimPhone also includes a complete guide for creating a “Kitbot on Steroids,” a simple and inexpensive drivetrain. The guide includes full-length and detailed instructions, an assembly video guide, bill of materials and a 3-D drawing.

“It’s a great way for people to learn the basics,” said Cadot.

With the first version out of the way, Cadot said they plan on continuously updating the software. For example, when new challenges are announced through the FIRST and VEX programs, they will update the software according.

“We’ve been getting positive feedback,” he said. “So as long as people are interested, we’ll keep going forward.”
For more information on Simbotics, Team 1114 visit www.simbotics.org.