Two Mitchell teams separated by 0.1 seconds in robotics competition at D&D Automation

By Terry Bridge, Stratford Beacon Herald   

It was a photo finish as two teams from Mitchell placed first and second at a robotics competition in Stratford.

The winning squad, comprised of Grades 7 and 8 students Julia Dowson, Sydney Ryan and Emily Dearing, earned 1,000 points and managed to have its machine race around the track in 23.6 seconds. The runners-up garnered the exact same amount of points and finished with a race time of 23.7 seconds.

Did the triumphant trio expect it to be so close?

“No,” they all responded.

“We thought they were going to beat us, because when we practiced they always beat us,” Dowson added.

“We should have won,” second-place finisher Jayden Yanke said with a smile.

Mitchell was among a handful of schools from the Avon Maitland board that went head-to-head in the competition for Grades 7 and 8 students Wednesday at D&D Automation. Jason Carter, the company’s senior manager, explained the participants received a series of mini-challenges over the last few weeks to prepare for the main event. They also knew beforehand what they were up against Wednesday.

“But they only got the instructions a week ago,” Carter said.

D&D Automation president Michael McCourt congratulates the students at the conclusion of a robotics competition for Grades 7 and 8 students on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 in Stratford, Ont. (Terry Bridge/Stratford Beacon Herald)

The students – they went home with T-shirts commemorating D&D’s Awesome Battle of the Bots – had most of the morning to debug and make upgrades to the robots and their respective codes before the competition began. Then there were a set of seven tasks – have the robot touch a plate, identify a colour and go over a ramp, for example – worth a varying amount of points. The tasks could be completed in any order.

Sprucedale Public School in Shakespeare finished third with 700 points while Exeter’s South Huron was recognized for team spirit, Howick for sportsmanship, and Wingham’s Madill for teamwork.

D&D president Michael McCourt said they consistently aim at giving back to the community, but they focus on youth education technology.

“That’s a bullseye for us, that’s why we do this,” he said.

Carter said the youth learned about limitations, maximizing tools, and one other key lesson.

“If you don’t save and your computer freezes that your program’s gone,” Carter said. “Some good life lessons along the way.”

tbridge@postmedia.com