Published on May 23, 2014
The LSK Flying Wombats – from left, Thomas Toney, Tristan Bernard, Ethan Paul and Sutherland Greer – show off Toby, short for Tobias, just days after returning from Michigan where they competed in the World Robofest Championships. The Indian Brook school just started the robotics program this year. Raissa Tetanish – Truro Daily News
Published on May 23, 2014
Tobias, also known as Toby, gets some work done in preparation for a short demonstration by students at L’nu Sipuk Kina’muokuom in Indian Brook. Raissa Tetanish – Truro Daily News
‘The fact that we made it after only just starting is amazing’
INDIAN BROOK – The LSK Flying Wombats might only be a few months old, but its participants are already excited about what they’ve accomplished.
The Flying Wombats is a new robotics team that started at L’nu Sipuk Kina’muokuom just this year and consists of Sutherland Greer, Thomas Toney, Tristan Bernard and Ethan Paul, all Grade 11 students, who just got back from the World Robofest Championship in Michigan.
“Robotics is something all of us are interested in,” said Toney.
“So it really peaked our interest because of the engineering, building things with our hands and coding. It was a good fit for all of us.”
While the group started out with a few more students, once things got going, the four teenagers were the ones to stick with it. They competed for the first time in February at a regional event held at Acadia University.
“By placing third, that allowed us, and the other top two teams, to go to the world competition,” said Greer.
Anirban Haldar, a math and science teacher at the school, is the coach of the Flying Wombats after being approached to start a robotics team.
“The administration had heard about other schools competing in the province, so (it) wanted to try it here,” he said. “I didn’t know how to do any of this; this is my rookie year. We’ve realized
there’s a lot of strategy and planning involved, and we found the more time we spent on it, the more time we needed to put into it.”
Haldar said for him, the greatest part about coaching the team is watching the students work together to solve problems.
“I like watching them struggle with something and keep working to get somewhere, then figuring it out. It’s extremely satisfying to watch.”
At the world competition, which was held in Southfield last weekend, the students competed in the senior game category with another 19 teams. In the end, they placed 15th out of 20.
“We could’ve done better,” said Paul. “We made a lot of mistakes.
But even if we didn’t do great, even if we would have come in last, it would be like coming in last at the Olympics,” added Toney.
“The fact that we made it after only just starting is amazing. It’s just phenomenal.”
The students, coach and principal Sarah Doucet are all using this first year as a learning experience and hope to grow interest within the school.
“We’ve had an offer from IBM to come in and host workshops starting at a Grade 4 level,” said Doucet.
Workshops, said Haldar, will include robotics, snap circuits and water filtration.
“They’re also going to provide us with kits and computers. It’s a great opportunity,” the teacher said.
By attending the world competition, the students and Haldar all agreed it was an eye-opening experience.
“One of the things we all learned was with the designs that we saw,” said Haldar. “Things that we thought, ‘no, we can’t do this,’ other teams were doing. It’s what we’re willing to put out from our imaginations. When we were talking ideas there, the students all spoke their mind and it helped them advance further.”
In the senior game category – known as AMD, or Avoid Meltdown – the students had to program their robot to finish tasks to avoid a nuclear meltdown. They had to knock down batteries, drop tennis balls into a box, and also had to drop an egg into a box. With only knowing one dimension of the box, the students also had to find the volume of the box.