Martin C. Barry
Three days of technology-driven competition took place at Laval Senior Academy on the weekend of Feb. 1 – 3, as Montreal-area high school and CEGEP students with carefully crafted robots faced-off during the 17th annual CRC Robotics Competition.
Winners one and all
Hundreds of eager and ambitious students were called upon to use their imaginations and ingenuity to come up with the best robot as well as the best team for this year’s football-inspired game called Converto 2018. Although it was a competition by nature, the organizers emphasized that if you made it there with a working robot you were already a winner.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board president Jennifer Maccarone was on hand along with other board officials on the competition’s opening day to help get things rolling. “Every team member here today has experienced leadership, learned management and organization skills and perfected the art of presentation,” she said, while extending special thanks to LSA’s administrators and science teachers “who worked hard in making this event a success,” said Maccarone.
Girls’ participation rising
Laval Senior Academy and the SWLSB “have been a huge part of the CRC over the past 17 years,” said Jennifer Vaughan, LSA’s vice-principal. “LSA is very to proud to host the event this year,” she continued, noting that participation by girls has been increasing year by year in leaps and bounds.
“Throughout its 17 year history, CRC Robotics has always had success in attracting girls to participate. I believe all of the all-girls schools in Montreal have participated over the years. Co-ed schools like LSA have a history of huge involvement from girls as well.”
Around 600 students took part
According to Vaughan, 600 students from 26 teams were participating this year. They included 17 high schools, eight CEGEPs, one all-girls high school and an adult education centre. Half of the participating schools were Anglophone, while the other half were from the Francophone education sector.
Recently, Vaughan added, with the help of CRC Robotics’ first female coordinator Natasha Vitale, the competition was able to double-down on its efforts to empower women. She noted that prior to becoming a coordinator for CRC Robotics, Natasha participated in the competition as a student from Sacred Heart School and then from Marianopolis College. With Vitale’s leadership, CRC Robotics ran a conference in November 2017 entitled ‘For Girls, From Women’ to inspire girls to go into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
A passion for robotics
“Year after year, we see the participation of girls in this competition increase exponentially,” said Vitale. “As a former participant involved with CRC since 2007, it brings me such joy to know that we are reaching more girls as the years progress and that we are truly promoting women in STEM with every year that goes by. In such a world where gender equity is becoming increasingly prominent, it is important for us to inspire our girls to continue their studies in STEM fields, starting with encouraging their passion for robotics.”
The CRC Robotics Competition is considered to be unique as it’s the only robotics competition where all the work is done exclusively by students, with teachers, engineers and mentors being present for advice only. Except for a motor and a control box each team receives, everything about the robot, the kiosk, the video and the website is conceived and built by the students.