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HHS students ironing out robot designs  

A team of Huntsville High School (HHS) students is gearing up for an annual robotics competition. 

Hoya Robotics will go pedal to the metal in the FIRST Robotics competition in Newmarket this March, followed by provincial qualifiers in North Bay. Team Captains Will Zammit and Sophia Webster say this year will be a challenge, but they think the team is up to the task.  

According to Zammit, the competition involves designing a remote-controlled robot to navigate obstacles and place or throw rings into various receptacles, with points awarded based on difficulty. 

“There’s definitely a lot of ways to score this year, but they’re not as easy as previous years,” says Zammit. “It’s definitely a bit of a challenge to design a robot for that.” 

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Webster says they’re currently in the prototyping stage, working on parts such as the ring-shooter. 

“Robot-wise, our prototypes are going very well. So if we continue on the track we’re going, I think there’s good odds we may make it to provincials or even farther,” says Webster. She adds this year’s team is very dedicated, not to mention the mentorship from industry professionals such as a retired Canadian Space Agency engineer. 

Ian McTavish, the HHS teacher in charge of the team, says the concept is steadily coming together and they expect the robot to be fully functional by the end of February. 

“The biggest thing is we can do each of the tasks really well,” says McTavish. “How do we combine the mechanisms so that we’re really effective? That’s something we’ve focused on with our training this past year, so we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do.” 

They note the team is incorporating emerging technologies into the design, such as machine learning and a new 360-degree camera. 

“There’s a lot of elements in the middle of the field which make it hard for our driver to see. If we can have those cameras on the robot identify where that piece is and go pick it up itself, that makes our jobs a lot easier,” says Zammit. “We’ve got a really fantastic drive team, so for the robot to be better than them is a bit of a challenge, but we can do it,” adds McTavish. 

Meanwhile, McTavish says they’re in talks with FIRST Robotics Canada to bring an off-season competition to Huntsville. The town was an official kick-off site for the organization in January, which allowed teams from Northern Ontario to pick up their parts kits in Huntsville instead of having to make the trip to the Greater Toronto Area. 

“We’re hoping in a couple of months to make an announcement, and people will be able to come to see this game in action, in person, in Huntsville,” says McTavish, adding it would be in the late spring at the earliest. 

He also thanks the local sponsors of the Hoyas, as they help the students go on to do great things. 

“That’s what makes our team really successful,” says McTavish. “The students are able to see a pathway to careers, and we’ve got a lot of alumni that are now working with the companies that sponsor us.” 

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