Members of the Esquimalt High Robotics Club are participating in the Canadian Pacific Regional FIRST Robotics BC competition this weekend in Victoria. (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)
The Esquimalt High Robotics Club is taking part in the Canadian Pacific Regional competition this weekend in Victoria.  (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)The Esquimalt High Robotics Club is taking part in the Canadian Pacific Regional competition this weekend in Victoria. (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)
The Esquimalt High Robotics Club is taking part in the Canadian Pacific Regional competition this weekend in Victoria.  (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)The Esquimalt High Robotics Club is taking part in the Canadian Pacific Regional competition this weekend in Victoria. (Courtesy Esquimalt Atom Smashers)

The Esquimalt High Robotics Club runs like a well-tuned machine these days. Mentors and peers told teacher Tina O’Keeffe that it would take about five years to see students gel.

The prediction was correct.

“This is the first year that they have formed a real team. Everyone has a role in this robot,” O’Keeffe said.

The Esquimalt Atom Smashers are part of Greater Victoria high school teams that compete each year through For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) – an international youth organization that organizes several robotics challenges and competitions . FIRST Robotics BC aims to inspire students to pursue education and careers in related fields through challenges and competitions like this weekend’s FIRST Robotics Canadian Pacific regional event in Victoria.

There are two streams. The FIRST Robotics Challenge sees teams start a small project in the fall. In January, teams receive instructions for the larger FIRST Tech Challenge and have until March to prepare a robot for the competition, explained team leader Kyle Brown.

Now in his grad year, Brown started in 9th grade and saw the transition from someone providing the idea of ​​building to the cohesive team atmosphere the team has this year.

“What we’ve found works well is having a dedicated week where we throw ideas on the board,” he said. Everyone develops a passion and a sense of ownership for the end product.

The team also developed sub-groups to manage things like programming, construction, design, and business.

A FIRST team requires a budget between $10,000 and $16,000 each year, which makes the sales team essential, both in year-over-year budgeting and in succession planning. “Of all the schools, we have the biggest team with a big budget because the kids work there,” O’Keeffe said.

Instead of one person making cold calls and meeting sponsors, there’s a business team building connections, creating fundraisers, and raising awareness in the community.

They even got major sponsors in Code Name Entertainment and Seaspan Victoria Shipyards.

This ensures that team members volunteer and are seen in the community, and that the team can cover the bills and plan for the future so that it exists and is funded in five or six years, he said. she declared.

The most involved team members spend about 10 hours per week on the project.

He looks forward to competing this weekend with a well-trained team and attributes some of the program’s success to mentor O’Keeffe. “She really looked after the team and put in a lot of time and energy.”

FIRST Robotics BC is hosting 22 robotics teams from the FIRST Robotics Competition – with their robots, built and programmed by high school students on March 4-5 at the Save on Foods Memorial Center in Victoria.

Teams from Esquimalt, Spectrum and Reynolds participate in the Canadian Pacific regional competition.

Spectators are not allowed this year.

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