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Contributing article by Kim Cooper, Vice President of Partnerships, FIRST Robotics Canada.

'Bot Builders and STEM Legends: Microsoft and FIRST Robotics Canada Empowering Teams to Succeed

March 18, 2019

Imagine building a 120-pound robot from scratch in only six weeks. Now, imagine living in a remote community with a lack of resources and a minimal number of mentors and pulling off the same objective. Is it possible for an underdog team to survive, thrive, and compete at a FIRST Robotics Competition? With the support of Microsoft, FIRST Robotics Canada, dedicated mentors, and determined students with the will to succeed, indeed it’s possible. We have seen it firsthand with FIRST Team 6514.

The team, self-proclaimed as “The League of Nerds, Geeks, and Superheroes, Where Legends are Born” is comprised of students from Sutton District High School, located in Sutton, Ontario. Against all odds, this team has participated in FIRST Robotics Competition for the past three years. With hard work, persistence, and creative resiliency, this team has become an extraordinary force of STEM collaborators and leaders. The students have been challenged to raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills, as well as code and build a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.

With the help of relentless mentors, the students have experienced “real world” engineering through robotics—a program that was non-existent at their school two years prior. Sutton District High School is a small school of 515 students in grades 9 to 12. The school has a close partnership with the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nations, and two students on the team reside there and cross by ferry (and ice road in winter) each day to attend school. Issues of socio-economic disparity have deterred extracurricular programs like robotics in the past.

However, the team was committed to success. With the support of sponsors like Microsoft, they found the necessary resources to participate and compete, and have now become strong eclectic STEM squad.

The unique attributes and personalities of the student members and mentors have helped the team face and conquer adversities along the way. In their second year of participation in FIRST Robotics Competition season, they hope to play hard and bring their STEM skills to the next level. Not only have the students excelled in coding, and technical ability, they have also learned how to effectively work as a team.

The mentors couldn’t be prouder of the student’s progress and development, and they also realize that the coding and digital literacy skills that the team has learned along the way will prepare them for future career opportunities.

So, what happens next for these STEM legends? It’s competition time and absolutely, they’re ready for it. Check out the video above and get to know more about FIRST Team 6514. Experience the hope, promise and excitement of robotics season through these inspiring ‘bot believers.

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