High school students begin their six week race to build a robot as part of a North American competition.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

January 12, 2016


There were hundreds of them. The kept streaming into the room and immediately headed for the table that had hundreds of donuts of every imaginable flavour laid out.

Donut table

Tough to make a donut choice from a table like this.

Later in the day when this small hoard of young people had to be fed the pizza was brought into the rooms on small trolleys.

How did the Board of Education manage to get more than 500 young people out early on a Saturday morning? They were there to get the details on the robotics competition that Burlington students have been part of for 19 years.

It is one of the city’s best kept secrets – the crime is that it is a secret – the event gets next to no media coverage.

Hall full of students

They were an attentive audience – they were there to get the instructions they needed for the competition they were going to engage in. This was serious stuff.

The daylong event took place at the Gary Allan High school and had participants from throughout the Region.

The starting point was the broadcast of a video that was shown across North America to students in auditoriums who wanted to get the fundamentals of the robotics challenge.

Hammil + Miller

Dave Hammel from MM Robinson and Director of Education Stewart Miller exchange a laugh during the first phase of the North American robotics competition.

Under strict rules, limited resources, and the guidance of volunteer mentors including engineers, teachers, business professionals, parents, alumni and more, teams of 25+ students have just six weeks to build and program robots to perform challenging tasks against a field of competitors. They must also raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and perform community outreach. In addition to learning valuable STEM and life skills, participants are eligible to apply for $25+ million in college scholarships.


The challenge in the 2016 First robotics competition was to breach the castle stronghold of the other team – using robots to do the breaching.

FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff. The new game and playing field are unveiled and teams receive a Kickoff Kit made up of donated items and components worth tens of thousands of dollars – and only limited instructions. Working with adult Mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. Once these young inventors build a robot, their teams will participate in one or more of the Regional and District events that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

The Gazette intends to follow the robotics team from Burlington Central High school and M M Robinson high school. Our first look at these two groups was an amazing time – we saw some of the brightest young people we have come across in this city.

Stay tuned.

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