Two city schools earn top robotics awards

Two St. Catharines high schools have been elevated to the echelons of robotics greatness.

Sir Winston Churchill and Governor Simcoe Secondary schools both earned major accolades at the VEX Robotics World Championships in Dallas, Texas, last weekend, including a top three finish for a robot designed and operated by Churchill students and a duo of prestigious awards for Simcoe’s Simbotics team.

The schools competed against 273 teams from 14 countries to secure the honours.

They did it by battling it out in a game called Elevation, a challenge involving strategically placing cubes in goals.

It wasn’t about getting as many cubes in net as possible but being the last one to score on a goal. That added a new element of strategy to the robotics games, said Bill Clark, Sir Winston teacher.

“The exciting part of this year’s competition compared to last year was it became like a game of chess,” Clark said.

It also became a game of chance, starting with getting the school’s two robots to the Lone Star State.

Instead of taking them on the plane and risking damage, one parent volunteered to drive them to the competition, making the 25 hour just in time.

At the last minute, the driver of one of the robots was unable to attend the championships, thrusting Grade 9 student Angela Gaiero into the role.

“It was really fun, exciting,” Gaiero said. “Sometimes it was a little stressful. I just kind of did it.”

Leigh Pauls, Grade 12 student and coach of the third place team, said the championship title was within reach until the robot from Sir Winston’s alliance team lost power when its battery became unplugged.

“That’s the thing about robotics,” Pauls said. “All the things you think wouldn’t be the focus are the focus.”

Still, he’s not complaining.

“You can’t be upset about finishing third in the world,” he said.

Sir Winston also won the Sportsmanship Award, given to a team that has won the respect and admiration of other teams and the judges.

Governor Simcoe won the Excellence Award, the highest recognition handed out at the competition for a team exemplifying overall excellence in building a well-rounded VEX robotics program.