The buzzing sound of robots filled the air at Newtonbrook Secondary School on 18 April 2019 as Marc Garneau competed in the World Robotics Olympiad (WRO). The WRO is an international competition that challenges teams from Grade 1 to university-level to build a robot out of Lego. MGCI competed against approximately twenty teams in their category.

The World Robotics Olympiad. Image: Evan Woo.

Garneau had three six-member teams competing in the event: one Grade 10 team and two Grade 9 teams. Each team made their own robot that satisfied the size requirements and could complete the goals of the competition. For most students, it was their first time competing and an opportunity to see their hard work put to the test.

The theme for WRO 2019 was SMART Cities, meaning the events in the competition were based on technologies that may be used in building future cities. The Grade 9 teams competed in the junior category (ages thirteen to fifteen) and the Grade 10 team competed in the senior category (ages sixteen to nineteen), which had more challenging objectives. Each team placed their autonomous robots on a map to complete different goals. The junior category had different coloured blocks representing smart light bulbs that needed to be placed upright in marked areas to gain points. Points were also awarded for finding and disposing of black blocks that represented old bulbs, a special block that was harder to detect, and returning to their starting point before time expired. The senior team had to place blocks that represented nodes and cables to update an IT network. All teams had three two-minute trials with thirty minutes between each run to make changes to their robot. The highest of the three scores became the final score for each team.

While teams did not move on to the next round of WRO they achieved higher scores than in previous years. President Jeremy Phy also felt the experience gained from the event would be crucial for future competitions because students have the ability to expand and grow. He added, “We worked very closely with the teams this year in comparison to past years, which helped them learn much more.”

MGCI’s robotics teams. Image: Evan Woo.

MGCI student Evan Woo, who is part of a Grade 9 team, felt proud of what he accomplished and learned but said, “I think we could start earlier and do more test runs so we don’t have to rush to complete the robot.” The students plan to take the team to new heights next year by exploring VEX Robotics, which have a greater emphasis on engineering methods and use metal parts instead of Lego.

Overall, the competition was a success because the members learned how to work under pressure and improved their building and programming skills. Next semester, the Robotics Club hopes to appeal to students more and become more integrated into the school environment. This goal is supported by the school administration through funding and as Robotics Club gains members, the roof for their success is raised.