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Burnett robotics team flexes tech muscles

By Lorraine Graves

Published 10:34 PDT, Tue April 30, 2019

From the germ of an idea in November of 2018, three Grade 11 J.N. Burnett Secondary School students grew a competitive robotics team with encouragement from their Technology Education teacher Wesley Bevan.

Now a much larger group, these young men built their wooden warrior robot and have been scoring big in competitions.

Even though a relatively new team and competing against schools who have had robotics clubs contending at this level for decades, the team from Burnett went to Victoria for the Canadian Pacific regional competition.

How did they do? “We won,” says one.

“There were a lot of veteran teams,” says Javin Chan.

From there, it was on to an international competition in Houston, where they made it to their divisional quarterfinals, only losing their final match by one point.

These are all outstanding accomplishments for any team, let alone one less than a year old.

And their plans for next year?

“We want to grow the team and make it more sustainable. All of us are Grade 11 except one guy who is in Grade 12. So, having a team that will outlast us is a really big goal for us.”

They and their teacher also expressed an interest in having more female students join in.

When asked if it was correct that you have to be absolutely brilliant, a keener, have straight As in math and science, as well as be a stellar student, to be good at robotics, universal laughter erupts.

The skill set you do need to do this? “Honestly, just thinking outside of the box,” one student says.

“Curiosity,” says another.

Yet another says, “I don’t think you guys are giving yourself enough credit. It’s also the technical skillset we just happened to have in our background.”

Chris Lam, who hopes to go into medicine after he graduates, says the team effort has required a great deal of commitment.

“It’s been a big part of our lives. This team, you have to go all in. It forces you to make more of a time commitment to yourself and to quality.”

Delgado Carvalheiro-Nunes wants to become an elementary teacher while Chan hopes to become a mechanical or mechatronics engineer.

Evan Statham hopes to go to university and study technology or computers.

Sean Xie is interested in computer science.

Riley Lewis, wearing a distinctive cowboy hat, is considering either a career in technology or going into the trades.

Grade 11 student Sean Uy says he has “a career set in aerospace technology so I’ll be doing that the next 16 months after I graduate.”

Arun Singhal, who formed and ran this team, also plans to use skills he’s honed on the robotics team: “What I’m going to be interested in is business and project management. That’s a really big thing for me.”

Bevan became a teacher, he says,to help kids outside of school.

“Just to watch them grow, it’s so amazing.”

The team is fundraising to help defray costs of their robot-building and the expense of the team going to competitions. FedEx donated the cost of shipping their robot—which is in transit at the moment—home from Houston. Their next trip is a little closer to home.

“They were such a hit there,” Burnett principal Wennie Walker says, “that one of the NASA engineering mentors took notice of them and has invited the team to the inaugural Canadian International Space Settlement Design Competition in May at UBC.”

Charitable Impact CEO Dan Brodie has made a donation to the team, as has Aurora Industries.

“We are still looking for a tech/STEM company to co-sponsor, but we haven't had luck with that yet.”

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