St. Clair College machine shop pit crew at the FIRST robotics competition

kenneth Pastushyn
By kenneth Pastushyn April 20, 2018 15:58

Mark Matthys of the St. Clair College machine shop operates a cut saw inside the pit area of the Windsor Essex Great Lakes District FIRST Robotics competition at the University of Windsor’s St. Denis Centre field house on Saturday, March 31, 2018 (Photo by Ken Pastushyn)











By Kenneth Pastushyn


“The Windsor Essex Great Lakes Regional (FIRST Robotics Competition) is one part NASCAR, one part

Super Bowl and one part rock concert.”Michael J. Beneteau, CEO of Centreline (Windsor) Ltd.


FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) staff members from the St. Clair College machine shop volunteered to assist with metal repairs for all 38 teams participating in the fifth annual Windsor Essex Great Lakes District robotics tournament for two days during Easter weekend.


Three other teams from Detroit, as well as many teams from southwestern Ontario, and as far away as Toronto, traveled to Windsor to compete.


The St. Clair machine shop’s reputation is so good that Windsor-Essex FIRST Robotics is trying to go through all the paperwork to get them to volunteer as a pit crew for this year’s world championships at Detroit’s Cobo Center.


“This is the best machine shop in all of the FIRST Robotics competitions – period,” said Larry Koscielski,

chairman of the Windsor-Essex Great Lakes District event.


The well-equipped pit area is located in a fenced-off corner of the fieldhouse.


“Most of the jobs are 15 to 20 minutes,” said Vinko Nenadovich, another machine shop volunteer from St. Clair. “We support them and we do it as fast as we can.”


The robotic games worldwide are also adjusted every year. This year’s game is called Power Up, which was modelled after robots lifting and delivering packages onto platforms inside a warehouse.

One of the robots’ tasks this year was to scale a tower with their arms and levitate.


“Sometimes it’s minor, but this year it’s major repairs because after every match, the robot’s arms keep flying off,” said Scott Klein, a teacher and mentor from North Middlesex High School’s Deus ex Machina robotics team from Parkhill, Ont. “Even though you don’t try to hit each other, there is still a lot of interaction with the bots, so you get lots of damage.”


The robots weigh between 80 and 120 pounds. Most are kit bots from online stores, but some are modified in order to compete and the teams cannot spend more than $4,000.


“These are all custom-built robots which is much like building a prototype car,” said Richard Iacobelli, a mentor with the Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School’s team.


In the semi-finals, the Governor Simcoe Secondary School Simbotics team won their first match in a best of three format. This high school from St. Catherines, Ont. has been in robotics since 2003 and were inducted in the FIRST Robotics Hall of Fame in 2012.


“They have more district wins than anybody in the world,” said Al Douglas, a robot inspector and the coordinator of the St. Clair robotics program. “The one thing I really love about these events is these kids in high-pressure situations where they only have so much time to calm down and work together to solve a problem.”


The Simbotics were ready to roll out and get back onto the court. Unfortunately it broke down again during the tie-breaking match.


“He’s got dead arms,” said Austin Wilds, another inspector and robotics student. “They are going to play for defense.”


It was too little too late and they were on knocked out of the semi-finals.


“They did their best,” said Wild.


And their best is good enough in the FIRST community because they achieved a high level of “Gracious Professionalism.”


“You win by making yourself better,” said Douglas. “Not by breaking the other team.”

kenneth Pastushyn
By kenneth Pastushyn April 20, 2018 15:58

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