FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The North Peace Secondary School robotics class competed in the Skills Canada Robotics Competition, placing fifth nationwide.

Robotics instructor Brant Churchill says this year’s regional, provincial and national competitions were held virtually.

“Nationals is technically out of Vancouver. But we were in Fort St.John in my classroom running our competition over two days, working from 8 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. working on our tasks and then sending in videos to the national committee to be judged,” Churchill said.

Churchill says that students that competed in the national competition received a 30-page document detailing the scope of the project, the arena dimensions, and time and size limits.

“They have to come up and design robots, usually two teleoperated robots. So remote controlled. Maybe an autonomous element if they want. Then they have a certain amount of time to accomplish a task as best as they can,” He explained.

“When they get to nationals, usually what happens is they do a head-to-head competition, a round-robin, and then a tournament style,” He continued.

Unfortunately, due to this year’s virtual format, the competition went differently than usual.

“It was more doing some digital best runs possible kind of video, but also with that, they get a kit of brand new electronic parts, and from that kit, they then had to build a robot and program it autonomously,” Churchill said.

“They get the two days, outside of the time that they’re doing the other part of the competition, and they have to make the robot do a specific task. They do not find out the task until the morning of the first day of the competition.”

Churchill says that this year’s win marks the third national win for the school but ties for their best result.

“We got to send two teams to provincials this year and got first and second, beating out a bunch of people from the island and other places in the province,” Churchill said.

He expects that the students that competed in the competitions this year will return for next year.

“I’m hoping that we take this experience and go further. The last time we went to nationals, we had a student who got to go in grade 11, and then he got to go again in grade 12, and they improved through that as well,” Churchill said.

Churchill says planning for next year’s event is already underway, with regionals kicking off at the beginning of February.

Nationals will be held in Winnipeg at the end of May 2023.

Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.