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Springbank Community High School students heading to world robotics competition

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They've built robots that stood out in their regional competitions and won the right to represent their school and country on the world stage in Houston, Texas.

The 2023 FIRST Tech Challenge will host high school students from all over, April 19 to 22.

And it's the first time since the robotics program started six years ago at Springbank Community High School (SCHS) that a team has qualified for a world championship.

The team earned the right after winning a provincial competition in Red Deer earlier in March, along with the Cyber Eagles from Edmonton.

"There's going to be lots of teams there that are probably going to be better than us," said Gabriel Burke, 16-year-old team lead.

"There are some teams that are sponsored by organizations like NASA. We don't have that, so there's going to be a lot of competition and we are pretty nervous about it, but we are working on a new robot right now that hopefully, we don't completely humiliate ourselves, so we should be OK."

Devin Corti is in Grade 11 and his first year on the team.

He knows he and his friends will be up against some larger schools with better funding, but he's trying to not let that intimidate him or his teammates on Springbank Robotics Team FTC 14023.

"Going to Houston is a great opportunity," he said.

"It allows us to meet so many more people and see so many more designs. There are going to be over 1,000 teams there and so there's just going to be so many people to talk to and so many different robots to see and so I think it'll be a cool experience."

Corti estimates the team will need $50,000 to get at least 16 people to Houston, including students, teachers and parents.

They're fundraising through bottle drives and raffles to get as much money as they can in a short amount of time.

"Since we went to provincials, we've gotten two sponsorships – one with Blue Spark Energy, which is a Calgary-based engineering company," he said.

"That's pretty big, and the other is with Bonnetts Energy Corp., which is another Calgary-based engineering company."

Lachlan Lenz joined the school robotics team when he was in Grade 9.

He's responsible for driving the robot around a circuit to drop cones onto poles of varying heights, but like all team members, he jumps into areas of the project wherever he's needed.

"We all kind of have a common goal to basically succeed in STEM and want to work towards either engineering or robotics in the future," he said.

"I want to go into engineering, aerospace engineering, and I think these skills that I've learned in this class really will help me work towards that goal."

Bob Mathew, the school's science teacher, says the robotics students have a big advantage after they graduate and move into post-secondary school.

"They have a head start," Mathew said.

"So, for example, we think that these robots (the high school students have built), they're third-, fourth-, fifth-year university robots, and they're doing it in grades 9, 10, 11 and 12."

Mathew says this can also improve their earning potential once they graduate and enter the job market.

"This opens the door for them and suddenly, they see a world of opportunity," he said.

"In this world, where everything seems so competitive, the opportunity is there for them because they've gone through these processes and are so young."

Burke and the other students are spending a lot of time in the school's innovation lab, working on a new version of their robot that they hope will see them do well in the world competition.

"I think it's going to look super good on the resume," he said.

"FTC, FRC is a pretty well-known Robotics Championship, so I think if we say that we made it to worlds, we won in Western Canada, they're going to realize like, wow, these kids really know what they're doing, these kids are innovators.

"They're going to see that and they're going to know, we can work well together and with other teams, too, so I think it's going to be a super good opportunity for us, in terms of putting it on college applications."

You can learn more about the SCHS robotics team at https://www.gofundme.com/f/schs-robotics-team.

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