The Rossignol High School robotics club is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Students in the Île-à-la-Crosse club had a strong showing at Saskatchewan Polytechnic's Sumobot challenge, placing second at the Skills Canada Provincial Competition in Regina April 13.
“We were pretty pleased, to say the least,” Dave Dalton, the math and science teacher who runs the club said about the silver medal.
Dalton said the club was given a challenge to design, build and troubleshoot a robot early in the school year. Students had to construct a well, which pumped "oil" into and along a pipeline to the “refinery,” or a predetermined endpoint. While simple in concept, he said the project challenged the students.
“You take a look at it and you kind of think 'that shouldn't be too bad,' but once you get in the process of things it really is a bit of a challenge,” Dalton said.
Over the last seven years, Dalton learned about robotics alongside his students. While he said he's always enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together, he had never looked into robotics. Since he began building robots, Dalton said he's learned anyone who commits to doing it can do it. The biggest challenge he runs into when students are first getting into robotics is doubt, he said, as many feel they can't build a robot.
“It just takes some time to learn it,” Dalton said, comparing the task to building a house. “When you break it down into the smaller tasks it becomes bit more feasible to do. You know, you can pick up a hammer and hammer a nail.”
For himself, Dalton said the most interesting part of the club is watching students break through their mental barriers. Members of the club have grown and developed more than he could have ever imagined when he first started the club, he added.
“Some of the ideas they come up with are just phenomenal,” Dalton said.
While the robotics club is giving students a practical knowledge of technology, Dalton said it does much more for the students who participate.
“They build skills in critical thinking and design, and hands-on experience in technology and all sorts of different things, but it also helps them build social skills, a sense of belonging,” Dalton said.
Dalton said only time will tell what's in store for the club next. He said he's got a great group of students to work with at Rossignol High School and a well-built program, so the possibilities are endless.
“A lot of people will look and say, 'well, we've had successes here and there,' but I say we've had seven successful years,” Dalton said. “Every year the kids learn and have fun ... this is the first year we've actually won any competitions, but we've had seven successful years.”
Île-à-la-Crosse's students were joined on the podium at the Skills Canada competition by another northern school - Pinehouse's Minahik Waskahigan High School placed third.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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