After capturing top honours at the FIRST Robotics Greater Toronto West Regional, the St. Robert’s RetroRams huddle around their team’s mechanical member. Photo courtesy of the York Catholic District School Board

St. Robert’s takes robotics title

By 
  • April 11, 2012

THORNHILL, ONT. - In their FIRST Robotics Competition debut, the St. Robert’s RetroRams mechanically orchestrated a regional championship while earning the rookie all-star award at the annual competition.  

FIRST Robotics hosts high school regional championships  and invites winners, and select teams, to the world championships, to be held this year in St. Louis.

At the Toronto West Regional competition on the last weekend of March, 52 teams packed the Hershey Centre in Mississauga for a Rebound Rumble showdown where three-team alliances hit the hardwood.

“It was a modified basketball game,” said Paul Keenan, a staff-member teammate from Thornhill, Ont.’s St. Robert’s Catholic High School. “At each end of the court, instead of one basket it was four.”

Rim heights for the baskets varied with the tallest at 2.5 metres, two side-by-side at 128 cm and the low-baller at 70 cm. Points earned per-basket ranged from three to one respectively.

During the final 30 seconds of a match, additional points could be quickly earned by balancing robots on the see-saw bridge gapping the 15-cm vertical half-court barrier.

“The amount of the points increased in the playoffs where the balancing of three robots was worth 40 points,” said Keenan, adding the team successfully balanced three times during the competition. “That was the difference maker.”

The RetroRams received a tip, from an unlikely source, to build a compact robot for balancing. It came from a member of the Rick Hansen Secondary School team which St. Robert’s eliminated during the playoffs. “But they were delighted for us,” said Keenan, who frequently noted the level of camaraderie amongst the teams.  

Despite their difference in age, the students maintained this level of mature sportsmanship better than the eight staff teammates during the championship match, said Keenan.

“It was very emotional, a shock to everybody, but I think the kids handled it a little bit better than the adults,” he said.

“We didn’t really have expectations. It was for fun, a learning experience. It’s just a plus that we won,” said team captain Adrian Gaw, taking a break during his Grade 12 calculus tests to speak with The Register.  

Gaw, who hopes to attend university for engineering next year, had one goal for the team this year — experience.

“It was to help those students who have an interest in robotics,” said Gaw, who along with 19 other key teammates will attend the world championships on April 25.  

“It exceeded our expectations.”

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