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West Vancouver students shine at VEX Robotics World Championships

Teams from the North Shore are forming a dynasty known around the world
West Vancouver students compete in the VEX Robotics World Championships held from April 25 to May 3 in Dallas, Texas. | Andrew Liu

The Ten Ton Robotics Team, representing West Vancouver students from elementary to university tiers, racked up a plethora of awards at VEX Robotics World Championships held from April 25 to May 3 in Dallas, Texas.

They earned the Robot Skills World Champions, the Create Award, the Think Award, the Amaze Award, and the Reverse Engineering Award.

Teams with the West Vancouver School District Robotics Academy have excelled at the competition since its inception. There hasn’t been a year without qualified teams, except for the one year during the pandemic when the academy had the most qualified teams but couldn’t attend.

“As many as 300 students from Grade 3 to Grade 12 are involved in robotics schools, which makes us one of the biggest robotics programs in North America, if not the world. That is incredible considering we’re a pretty small community,” said Carie Wilson, the district vice-principal of innovation and technology for WV schools and a part of the teaching staff for the Robotics Academy. “Of course, not every child advances to the World Championships, but all have the opportunity to engage with robotics and explore engineering and design concepts. It’s a truly enriching program for all involved.”

Every year, the game changes. Students and their coaches learn about next year’s events at the World Championships. The minute they learn about the next game, they start creating and trying to figure out what will be the best robot to build. As the year goes along, they go to different competitions and start to tweak their design and fix things. It is truly a year-long process, Wilson added.

Asked about skills students develop during the year of preparation, Wilson, who is also a part of the teaching staff for the robotics academy, said there is much.

“They have to keep an engineering notebook that is a record of all of the different design cycles and challenges they’ve gone through and how they’ve met the challenges. It’s a very real-world thing because real-world engineers also have to keep an engineering notebook. They learn, hands-on, the applications of physics, math, and science whereas a student who’s just been in the classroom and not built anything doesn’t have that same hands-on understanding,” Wilson. “All of those things that our students learn serve them well as they move on from us. We’ve had students go on to universities all over the world from our robotics program.”

Ian Kennedy, the director of instruction with West Vancouver school district, also feels passionately that robotics is an amazing skill for students to work on.

“They develop not so much the technical skill as much as the problem solving, the communication, the critical thinking, the analysis, the teamwork, the ability to solve complex programs and iterate and redesign. If we think about all the successful learners or thinkers out there or what the world needs more of, it’s people with these skills that students learn through the process of robotics.”

On what they hope robotics students will take away from their experience, Wilson said she wants them to learn that if they put their mind to something, they can do it.

“But it could take hard work and there could be bumps on the road. However, as long as they persevere, they will get what they want,” she said. “Also, the memories they’ve had of being part of a team and what that feels like is what I hope they carry forward with them from us.”

Echoing the same remarks, Kennedy said, “If all of us look back on our lives, it’s those teachers that really got us going in a great direction, so a huge shoutout to our incredibly dedicated and passionate robotic staff. Our diverse team of coaches, facilitators and staff are working hard to develop a pathway for success of students in robotics from grade five onwards.”

The 2024 VEX Robotics World Championship, presented by the Northrop Grumman Foundation, is an annual event which brings together the top VEX IQ Robotics Competition, VEX Robotics Competition, and VEX U Robotics Competition teams from around the globe to celebrate their accomplishments and be crowned champions.

Fatemeh Falah is an intern reporter with the North Shore News. She can be contacted at [email protected].