Oak Bay’s Zachariah Mears, of the Esquimalt High School robotics team the Atom Smashers showcases the team’s robot Spike to Monterey Middle School’s technology class ahead of the FIRST Robotics Competition at the Save on Foods Memorial Centre March 14-16. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News)

Robotics competitors hit Oak Bay ahead of big Victoria competition

The FIRST Robotics Competition runs Thursday and Friday at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

Spike tackles some impressive competition this week when the Esquimalt High Atom Smasher pits the robot against the best in the west.

Spike and his team will take centre stage a few times as more than 1,500 students, teachers, mentors, parents and robotics enthusiasts fill Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for the FRC Pacific Regional competition.

“It’s the first time it’s going to happen in B.C… It’s going to be really exciting,” says Oak Bay resident Zachariah Mears, captain of the Esquimalt Atom Smashers team. “There’s going to be 32 teams each with their own big robot. We’re a rookie team so this is our first time doing it but there’s also going to be some more experienced teams and great people coming.”

The team have had six weeks to design, build, and program their 120 pound robot that competes at the FIRST Robotics Regional Championship this week.

“Our big goal is if we can win, we get to go to Houston (Texas) for the World Championships, but we’re just looking forward to having a lot of fun and seeing what other teams have come up with,” Zachariah says.

The Esquimalt High team came to be after a sponsor came forward, students pulled together to build a team. About half that team showed the robot off for the technology class at Zachariah’s alma mater Monterey Middle School on Friday. The team was allowed only to show off Spike, not work on the robot in advance of the competition. Spike is heavily 3-D printed.

Vaughn Scott of Esquimalt learned Java programming just to be part of the project.

“We had a mentor who actually helped us out wit the coding and what not,” Scott says, during the Monterey demonstration. “Some of it was quite advanced for us.”

It was an interesting learning experience, with a lot of trial and error, he said.

“It’s been a great learning experience for me, I’ve always been interested in programming but never actually got to program something physical,” Vaughn said. “It’s my first time actually seeing my programming do something and I love it. It’s one of those things where I write it all on the screen and t best it and watching it move is such a great experience. I know I did that, I wrote the code for that and the reason it’s moving is me.”

Though he’s quick to point out, there’s nothing to move without those who built Spike. It’s a total team effort with students from Grade 9 through 12 working together to tackle problems.

“You make a lot of friends through it,” he said. “It’s a beautiful learning experience and a lot of fun.”

In a match, two alliances, teams of three robots face off for two minutes and 30 seconds with the first 15 seconds autonomous before a driver takes over to control each robot. The teams tackle a number of different challenges to earn points.

The FIRST Robotics Competition starts Thursday, March 15 at 10 a.m. and qualification matches to 5 p.m. Friday, March 16 opening ceremonies are at 8:30 a.m. with matches from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 8 p.m. at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St. Teams from Belmont and Spectrum secondary schools will also compete against students from all over B.C. and Alberta, with international teams coming from as far as Mexico.

Learn more about FIRST Robotics Canada at firstroboticscanada.org.

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The Esquimalt High School robotics team the Atom Smashers showcases the team’s robot Spike to Monterey Middle School’s technology class ahead of the FIRST Robotics Competition at the Save on Foods Memorial Centre March 14-16. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News)

Some of the Esquimalt High School robotics team the Atom Smashers showcase team’s robot Spike to Monterey Middle School’s technology class ahead of the FIRST Robotics Competition at the Save on Foods Memorial Centre March 14-16. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News)

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