Two Father Mercredi High School students will be joining Team Alberta to compete in robotics at the 2019 Skills Canada National Competition. Tanner Zachkewich and Tryton Harper, both Grade 9 students, are getting ready to head to Halifax after winning Gold at the Alberta Provincials last week.
“It went pretty well for us. We got pretty lucky with getting gold at the end of the tournament,” said Harper. “There were some good teams out there. It was a fun competition too. It was enjoyable, everyone was friendly, everyone was kind and everyone seemed to be having a good time.”
The goal of the competition is to score points by having the robot shoot golf balls into different fishnets. A ball on the other teams floor will get you one point, a ball at the back of the field will get you two points and a ball in the net on another robot will get you three points.
Typically competed in by Grade 10 to 12s, Zachkewich and Harper are the youngest competitors to make it this far in the skills competition. The team also went undefeated.
“It feels awesome. I can’t really compare it to anything else. It was amazing,” said Harper.
Spending the majority of their evenings and break working on the robot, Harper and Zachkewich spent approximately a month planning, building and practicing with their design, a process which both agreed was stressful, but worth it.
“I think the time restraint allowed us to get right to it. We didn’t think and overcomplicate things,” said Harper.
“We did a simple design and it worked really smoothly,” added Zachkewich.
Harper and Zachewich have been working with robotics since they were in Grade 7.
Tom MacIsaac, teacher and mentor to Harper and Zachewich, said he was proud of what they have been able to accomplish.
“To watch them compete together, just the two of them, I think that’s part-in-parcel with the amount of experience they’ve accumulated in competitive robotics,” he said. “Their demeanour and calmness under pressure and stress is probably because of having competed in highly stressful competitions in robotics in the past.”
For the national championships, they will have to design, build and program a robot able to work on it’s own and without any remote controls. For the competition, the team has been given a kit with multiple instruction manuals. They won’t know what their robot will need to do until they get to Halifax.
“As far as building goes, it comes down to memorizing it, getting really good and really quick at it so that we can adapt to whatever situation we’re given because we have no idea what’s going to be shown to us when we get to Halifax,” said Harper. “The brunt of this competition style is all about the programming, all about what the people behind the computer can do.”
The 2019 Skills Canada National Competition takes place in Halifax on May 28 and 29.