FITZROY PROVINCIAL PARK – Merge Robotics, a competitive robot building club with members in West Carleton, brought their ‘bot to the international stage competing in April’s world championship.
2706 Merge Robotics is a club of robot building enthusiasts made up of team members and mentors from the west Ottawa area.
The club is unique in that it is not affiliated with any high school, as most FIRST Robotics teams are. This provides a unique experience and a unique challenge for the team as they must fundraise their entire annual budget which is around $40,000 to $50,000.
But that challenge was one of many met on the path to the 2018 world championship held in Detroit from April 25 to April 28.
Merge has about 48 members on the team ranging from Grade 8 to Grade 12 and another 15 volunteers who act as mentors to the team. Twelve team members are West Carleton Secondary School students and about four of the mentors call West Carleton home.
West Carleton Online caught up to Merge Robotics July 5 at the opening night of the Concerts in the Park series where they were hosting a barbecue as a fundraiser.
“It was a great experience,” Kinburn based team member Kevin Bird said. “It’s such a big event but the people are so friendly. Even people you are competing against. If you need a part, someone there will have it for you. It was very inspirational. It’s really helped me decide what I want to do with my life.”
While the tasks change from year to year, this year’s competition involved placing ‘power cubes’ on single beam scales. Whichever team tips the scales to their side wins the event. Robotics teams work with two other teams, creating a three on three robot face-off.
Teams don’t know who their partners might be until just before competing, but it is standard practice to have a team member dedicated to scouting the other robots looking for assets that will benefit their own robots.
“We write code for an Android app that uses a logarithm to crunch numbers to determine who would be a useful partner,” Bird said.
But backing way up, teams are given six weeks to build their competition robots with an idea of the tasks that will need to be completed during competition. Competitors need ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ work spaces and of course the technological know-how.
We’re always desperately looking for build space,” mentor and Carp resident Kendra Shaw said. “It’s like a little high-tech start-up. We teach them real-world engineering.”
The 2018 competitive season started in Toronto during the March break. Merge finished second with their robot ‘Mergio’ in the 40-team tourney.
“That qualified us for the district championship,” Shaw said.
They were also given the Engineer Inspiration Award presented to the team “that reaches out to their community paired with their engineering process,” Bird said.
Their district was Ontario and the next competition was an 80-team tournament in Mississauga.
Merge made it to the semi-finals and qualified for the world championship based on their season point total.
Detroit was the big leagues. Thee were 400 teams, 45,000 people watching live and many more watching the live stream around the world.
Both the Governor General and Ontario Premiere were present.
Bird was chosen as a student ambassador and had the honour of showing Julie Payette and Kathleen Wynne around the tournament.
Merge made it to the finals in their division which was comprised of 60 teams.
“We lost in a tie-breaker to the eventual world champion teams,” Bird said.
Although the competition season is over, Merge is still working on fundraising. On top of the $40,000 to $50,000 budget needed, the team is always looking for build space. If you would like to learn more about 2706 Merge Robotics, click here.