By Mansoor Tanweer
Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre hosted a different kind of athlete this weekend.
Robots took over the rink to compete in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition.
The event, which ran from March 5 to 7, was filled with high school teams from across Canada.
Every year, the contest has a theme that relates to the task the robots are judged by. Last year’s theme was “Rumble Rebound” where robots competed in basketball.
This year’s theme was “Recycle Rush.” The forklift-like robots competed, and were awarded points, on who could pick up, move and stack the most recycling bins and garbage cans.
“It’s kind of like when you’re in math class and the teacher asks you to show your work and everyone compares their solutions, except it’s 5,000 teams and everyone approaches the problem differently,” said Thomas Herrin, a member of Team 610 from Crescent School in Toronto.
Organizers of the event made it clear that robotics is only one, and certainly not the main, aspect of the competition.
“We are trying to inspire students to get involved and interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) in a fun way, that is very core valuesbased,” said FIRST Canada Executive Director Mark Breadner.
FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, the late inventor of the Segway.
Kamen was unimpressed by students’ lack of interest in the STEM field and set out to garner more curiosity toward the study.
The first ever robotics competition was held in 1992 at a small high school gym in New Hampshire.
Since then, it has grown to be an international organization with 109 events held in 18 countries.
“You can go to Israel and be like, ‘Yup, this is FIRST, I recognize it.’ You can go to Sydney, Australia or even Toronto,” said Don Bossi, President of FIRST. “Every weekend for about eight or nine weeks, there are about seven of these events going on in the world.”
The winners of this competition will move on to the World Championship hosted in St. Louis, Missouri.