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West Kelowna robotics team off to Texas for a world championship ro-battle

The Mount Boucherie Bears qualified for the World Championships Robotics competition in Texas
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(Mount Boucherie Secondary School Robotics Team)

The West Kelowna Mount Boucherie Secondary School Bears Robotics team is a true underdog story unfolding in real-time as the group of 22 students head to Texas to compete at the Robotics World Championships.

The MBSS team is the only team from Western Canada that qualified for the “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics World Championships” in Texas.

The Bears punched their ticket to the southern state after winning the Canadian Pacific Regional competition that was held in Victoria at the end of February.

Thirty-eight teams from across Western Canada, and the United States, including Hawaii and Taiwan travelled to Victoria to compete at the regional match in hopes of qualifying for Worlds.

Now, the Bears will be competing against more than 600 teams from around the world.

“We never expected to make it this far,” said Samantha Furman, a Grade 12 student at Mount Boucherie Secondary School (MBSS) and the head of electrical for the Boucherie Bears’ robotics team.

She explained that despite the team’s expertise and hard work, they entered each competition as underdogs due to a lack of funding and resources.

Some of the teams are funded and supported by organizations like NASA, said Furman.

“We are just an after-school club. We got together because we wanted to learn something together,” said Furman.

While they may not have the support of space exploration or automotive companies, the team at MBSS does have unmatched dedication. The team met for hours nearly every day after school to prepare for the competition. Even in their free time, the team was scheming up ways to improve performance.

This year, the team decided to put their money into the purchase of a fancy ‘swerve motor’ system for the 2024 robot. The purchase paid off and Furman said it played a large role in the team’s ability to secure the win at regionals.

Each year, just two short months before the regional qualifying competition, the teams are told what specific challenges the competition will entail. Then, it is a rush to construct and customize their robot.

This year the competition’s theme is ‘crescendo’, and requires that the robots be able to pick up and throw foam rings into targets while avoiding collisions with other bots, in addition to other challenges.

@kelownacapnews West Kelowna's own Mount Boucherie Secondary School Robotics Team is headed to the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Texas and need the community to step up and support them 🤖#firstrobotics #roboticscompetition #firstroboticscompetition #texas #westkelowna ♬ original sound - Kelowna Capital News

Furman said that each member of the team brings a unique set of interests, perspectives and skills to the group. Some people, like her, focus on the robot’s electrical components, while others focus on the body of the machine. Some team members are involved exclusively with the business aspect of the project and focus on securing funding for their build.

“These students have gotten involved with a FIRST team for different reasons,” said Mike Boulanger, a teacher at MBSS and the team mentor and coach. “Maybe it was to socialize, or maybe it was because they already had an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”

Regardless of their reason, Boulanger said that all students who participated in the project gained skills in robot design and fabrication, business, and programming, as well as additional soft skills like teamwork, cooperation, critical thinking and collaboration.

The Worlds FIRST Robotics competition takes place in Houston Texas from April 17 to 20.

If you are interested in donating to or sponsoring the Bears robotics team, contact the crew at mbsrobotics@gmail.com.

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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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