If you had walked into Room 102 after school during one of the past few months, you would have seen MGCI students from all grades working hard to assemble a strange metal contraption on wheels. But it won’t be the whir of NEO SparkMax motors, the grating sound of hacksaws against aluminum, or the animated conversations amongst small groups of students that draws your attention. Instead, it would be the determined collaborative spirit with which all of the members of First Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 8574 approach and solve problems.

Team spirit, work ethic, collaboration, curiosity, and courage drove Team Audeamus—pronounced ‘Aw-day-a-moose’, Latin for ‘let us dare’—to persevere through build season despite COVID restrictions, shipping delays, inadequate funding, and mad scrambles to communicate and coordinate with teacher supervisors. For increased efficiency, the group was separated into several smaller teams (driving, building, programming, and strategizing) to divide tasks. Almost every single day after school, the club hosted build sessions until 5 or 5:30 pm, and many members and teachers stayed past these times during the weeks leading up to competition season. The team was also fortunate to have the support of mentors and staff when planning build sessions and driver training days during weekends and March Break.

“I learned a lot from all of the teachers that came in and from making our custom modifications and solutions to the issues that we had,” said Farooq Muhammad, a grade 10 student. “ It’s a lot of fun to be in an environment where it’s just you and your friends working on something. When we were making the roller for the intake, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had because whatever we tried just didn’t work and blew up in our faces. But because of that, we gained the ability to make better and more creative solutions!”

This year, the FRC challenge was designed similarly to a 4-on-4 basketball game. In essence, participating robots are sorted into ‘alliances’, or teams, of four. Two alliances, one red and one blue, begin on opposite sides of the field. Red and blue balls, known as cargo, are scattered across the field. When the round begins, robots must run autonomously, without humans, for the first 15 seconds, before human players are allowed to drive their robots. The cargo is then picked up by robots and deposited into the hub area, which consists of one lower hub, worth 1 point for each ball, and one upper hub, worth 2 points. Points are given for additional tasks performed during the autonomous period and during the endgame.

Headed by MGCI Robotics’ student leaders, Audeamus was led by Anthony, Cynthia, and Rena, and supported by lead supervisor Mr. Larter as well as other staff. Despite the team’s relative inexperience, members constructed a robot based on a cost-efficient Everybot design with mentors’ and teachers’ support. The completed robot, ‘Duct Tape and a Dream’, had an intake attached to a raising arm for cargo and a climber that could be used to ‘hang’ the robot above the ground on rungs during the endgame.

After a hectic build season, Team 8574 finished training the drive team and building ‘Duct Tape and a Dream’ in time for their very first event at York University Day 2 on 27 March, where they came in fifth place overall and were awarded Rookie Highest Seed and Rookie Inspiration. They went on to compete in both events held on 9 and 10 April at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario, earning the Rookie All Star Award in recognition of their accomplishments and their impact on the school community. Audeamus then competed at the FIRST Ontario Provincial Championship from 13 April to 16 April and received the District Rookie All-Star Award, which immediately qualified them for the FIRST Championship held from 20 to 23 April in Houston, Texas, where they competed as part of the Turing Division.

MGCI Robotics Team (Audeamus) in Houston, Texas

Grade 9 student Corey Dai said that robotics has helped him develop skills for the future. “Working and collaborating with others helped me hone valuable teamwork skills. I’ve learned to open up to share and communicate ideas with my fellow teammates,” he elaborated. “Being part of robotics this year has had a huge impact on me developing as a person.”

Overcoming numerous challenges faced before, during, and after the competition, Team 8574 has set the bar high for the next generation of MGCI Robotics and has made an impact far beyond the school community.

“What we witnessed this year was all members of the Audeamus team consistently epitomizing the principles of coopertition (cooperation and competition) and gracious professionalism, whether they were at competitions, in build sessions, or doing planning,” said Mr. Langford, one of the teacher supervisors this season. “Since October, Audeamus members have experienced support and uncertainty, progress and delays, success and failure, elation and disappointment. We saw them be gracious in victory and in defeat. We saw it in the way they treated their teammates, their teachers and mentors, and their competitors. There was a very high level of integrity on the team. This fact makes us proud to have had these students represent MGCI on an international stage.”

On behalf of MGCI Robotics, I’d like to thank all members and mentors and all the Garneau staff who generously donated their time and effort to make this possible. And finally, special thanks go to: Mr. Larter, Mr. Langford, Ms. Carey, Ms. Cordova, Mr. Anthony, Ms. Yamashita, Ms. Atchison, Mr. Smith, Ms. Solorzano, Mr. Skara, Mr. Simos, Mr. Lang, Mr. Lowe, Ms. Sawh, and last, but definitely not least, Mr. Di Felice. Thank you all for supporting Audeamus!