2 Windsor-Essex high schools are sending teams to a world robotics event in Texas

The Belle River District High School robotics team is heading to Texas for the FIRST Robotics World Championship (FRWC) for the second year in a row.The Belle River Boltheads qualified for the competition after winning two awards at a Humber College competition in March, and placing third in the Windsor Essex Great Lakes event and in the technology division at the Ontario district championships.FRWC is the finale for the international youth robotics competition season and will see around 600 teams in Houston. It runs from Apr. 17-20.The championships are billed as a celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Belle River is sending 15 students, accompanied by teaching supervisor Lee Awad.WATCH | These Windsor-Essex students are headed to the World Robotics Championship:These Windsor-Essex students are headed to the World Robotics ChampionshipAwad has taught robotics for 18 years. He said the style of the competition hasn’t changed much but there’s much more “robot awareness.””It’s much more high-tech now,” he said. “Using a lot more vision capability like sensors … the robot is more aware of where it is on the field, of the different tasks it has to perform.”This year’s challenge is a game called crescendo where robots must shoot 35-centimetre rings, called notes, into a speaker before lifting off the floor and onto a stage using a chain. “Eighteen years ago, it was all student driven. Kids would get an Xbox controller and drive the robot. They’re still doing that now but because of all the sensors and cameras, they’re able to hit a button and the robot takes over and completes the task,” said Awad.Member of the Belle River Boltheads work with a robot they built. (Belle River Boltheads)Jackson Vickerd is a Grade 8 student at Belle River. He’s one of the Boltheads programmers who drives the robot. “It’s very exciting. It’s my first year, hopefully one of many. I’m excited to go and see all the people and compete,” he said.Pablo Garcia De La Cadena Chaparro is also a member of the Boltheads.He said it was fun learning, competing and being challenged by robotics.”It intrigues me how complicated it is,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into the team and into building the robot; the mechanical side, the programming. There’s a lot to learn.” One of the things that surprised Chaparro is the amount of rebuilding the robot needs and the cost. Awad described his team’s robot as an “all-rounder” and thinks the BoltHeads will do well in Houston.Villy WiredCats from LaSalle also competingThe WiredCats from St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Secondary School in LaSalle, Ont., will also be competing in the world championship.Their season got off to a bright start claiming the Jack Kamen Imagery Award at the District North Bay event in March for combining engineering excellence and outstanding visual aesthetics of machine and team integration.The WiredCats booked their spot in the championships after winning nine of their 12 exhibition matches at the robotics provincial finals against the 100 best teams in Ontario.The team secured their first trip to worlds finishing 22nd.The Villy Wiredcats represent Villanova high school in LaSalle, Ont. (Submitted by Celeste Deschamps)Student Celeste Deschamps said the WiredCats’ robot is the most advanced one they’ve made.”We invested in swerve drive this year, levelled up our programming using photon vision and path planner, and added many special features to our robot that brought it to the next level,” she said.Deschamps said her team’s goal is to leave their “paw print” on this year’s competition and do “very well” at the international event.The Wiredcats are from Villanova high school in LaSalle, Ont. (Submitted by Celeste Deschamps)She refers to the team as her “family.””Our team has had many cheers and tears together but through it all we persevere because of how hard working we are. The hours spent together to make something as amazing as we did really bonded all of us for life.”The BoltHeads and the WiredCats have met three times previously with Villanova winning twice.The teams aren’t in the same field in Houston, but could meet in the finals, if they get there.

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