A local robotics club is continuing to grow and break records along the way.
The Patrick Fogarty Robotics Academy has qualified a team for the world championships for the second year in a row.
On the weekend, the club’s youngest members — Rachael Kendall, 9, and Marcus Milliard, 8 — became PF Robotics’ first junior team to win a major award at the Ontario VEX provincials, where they qualified for the 2020 VEX IQ World Championships in Louisville, Ky., taking place April 26 to 28.
In addition to being one of only four elementary school teams in the province to qualify for worlds, they picked up the design award for their bot, 1705A. It was no easy feat.
The kids had to submit their comprehensive engineering design book. It was reviewed by the judges, who are engineers, and they then interviewed the students before choosing the winner.
“I thought it was a big surprise. I didn’t know we were good enough to do that,” said Milliard. “I feel great about it.”
For his teammate, it was exciting but not as much of a shock.
“I was pretty confident because we won every other time,” Kendall said, noting they won design awards at three qualifiers before provincials.
PF Robotics coaches Mike Milliard and Jason Janisse sent five teams to provincials.
“We were thrilled with the performances of all five of our teams,” Mike Milliard said, noting 77 teams from across Ontario took part. “Rachael and Marcus were knocking off teams that were five years older than them.”
Given that impressive performance, he has high hopes for the young bot builders.
“I think they’re in great shape,” he said. “If you can make it out of Ontario, you are very competitive south of the border.”
After March break, the team will take the time to tweak the bot and prepare it for competition on the world stage. The two have already invested more than 100 hours of work into 1705A.
“We have to speed up the robot and practise driving more,” Kendall said.
“We need to put bigger wheels on the drivetrain to make it faster,” added Milliard.
The world championships will cap a successful season for the local club. More than 150 teams competed in the VEX IQ Robotics challenge in Ontario this season, and four of the five PF teams finished in the top 20 in robot skills. It was the first year in the competition for three-quarters of the club members.