Wellington Secondary School student Balraj Gurm manipulates a boom with a grappler via remote control as he tries to get a robot to collect small balls and metal bits during a practice session at the Skills Canada Mobile Robotics competition Wednesday, April 20, at the old Dufferin Elementary School. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)

Wellington Secondary School student Balraj Gurm manipulates a boom with a grappler via remote control as he tries to get a robot to collect small balls and metal bits during a practice session at the Skills Canada Mobile Robotics competition Wednesday, April 20, at the old Dufferin Elementary School. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)

Nanaimo students take on Skills Canada robotics challenge

Secondary school teams from Nanaimo and Mill Bay battle technical and physical obstacles

Secondary school teams from Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley squared off against each other while polishing their design and fabrication skills on the fly in the Skills Canada B.C. Mobile Robotics competition.

Central Vancouver Island regionals were hosted Wednesday, April 20, in the gymnasium at the former Dufferin Elementary School. Students from Nanaimo’s Wellington Secondary School and Mill Bay’s Frances Kelsey Secondary School overcame a variety of technical challenges that included mechanical malfunctions and electronic glitches to get their creations to navigate an obstacle course and pick up and deliver small payloads of balls and metal objects to drop-off areas. Points were scored according to the number of items collected and delivered, how smoothly the robots are operated, robot design and other factors.

This year’s competitions are being held under COVID-19 protocols, so competitions within regions throughout B.C. were limited to small groups of teams. Heats were captured on video and sent to judges to review and grade team performances from across the province.

Each team was given practice runs before they put their robots through the paces in a series of five-minute heats with short breaks in between to make repairs and adjustments.

“The teams that qualified get to do as many runs as they want, they pick their best five and we videotape it and send that off to the provincials,” said Derek Beeston, Nanaimo-Ladysmith public schools district principal of careers. “Then the provincials get them from all over the province and then they view them all and assign a winner of gold, bronze or silver.”

Skills Canada B.C. confirmed that five teams, which included the teams from Nanaimo and Mill Bay on the Island, two from Fort St. John and one from Fort Nelson, competed in the Mobile Robotics competition category.

The winning team will compete in the Skills Canada National Competition in Vancouver from May 26-27.



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Frances Kelsey Secondary School students Tyler Bosence, left, and Ethan Barnett carry out modifications to improve the performance of one of their team’s robots at the Skills Canada Mobile Robotics competition Wednesday, April 20. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Frances Kelsey Secondary School students Tyler Bosence, left, and Ethan Barnett carry out modifications to improve the performance of one of their team’s robots at the Skills Canada Mobile Robotics competition Wednesday, April 20. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Wellington Secondary School students Kenzie States, left, and Quinn Hallett try to work out a problem with the drive system in one of their team’s two robots at the Skills Canada Mobile Robotics competition Wednesday, April 20. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Wellington Secondary School students Kenzie States, left, and Quinn Hallett try to work out a problem with the drive system in one of their team’s two robots at the Skills Canada Mobile Robotics competition Wednesday, April 20. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)