The Esquimalt Atom Smashers do maintenance on Spike, the robot they designed, engineered and built to compete in the recent B.C. Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The team from Esquimalt High walked away with the Rookie All Star Award, qualifying them for the World Championship next month in Houston, Texas. Arnold Lim/BLACK PRESS

Esquimalt High robotics students engineer their way to Texas

Rookie team qualifies for FIRST World Championship after breathing life into armed robot Spike

Have you met Spike?

He’s the robot designed, engineered, built and driven entirely by the Esquimalt Atom Smashers, a group of Esquimalt High students who are en route to Houston, Texas to compete in the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

The Atom Smashers took home the Rookie All Star Award in their first attempt behind the controls at the B.C. Regional competition last week at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, qualifying to compete against teams from all over the world next month in Texas.

“I call us the little team that could,” says Tina O’Keefe, the Smashers’ lead coach and a computer science teacher at Esquimalt High, the school with the smallest team and the biggest win.

RELATED: Robots battle in Greater Victoria

The whole thing started when FIRST Robotics made a presentation at the school and shortly after, O’Keefe was approached by one of her particularly tech-savvy students, who asked if they could implement the program at their school.

She told him he had two hours to find eight more interested students and she’d consider it – he came back with 13 a half hour later.

The competition, hosted by international youth organization, FIRST (For Inspiration, Recognition of Science and Technology) drew teams with an average of 20 students. The Atom Smashers crushed the competition with just 12 of them.

“It’s a lot of strategy, a lot of team-building skills,” O’Keefe says, in addition to the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) skills the students put to use.

FIRST Robotics provided a basic kit that, combined with the students’ ingenuity would eventually turn into Spike, the armed robot. Local businesses also chipped in, offering tools, safety goggles, paint and even some tips on mechanics.

Competition was fierce and exciting, O’Keefe says, but not without its challenges. At the last minute, the team had to borrow a motor for one of Spike’s arms after one blew.

“These were the kinds of things we had to problem-solve,” O’Keefe says. “Everybody’s in there with a drill, everybody’s making things happen.”

As an educator, she says, it’s been a phenomenal experience.

Before the team heads to Houston April 18 to 21, (you can watch the competition live here) they’re hitting the ground to fundraise for the trip, partially funded by FIRST. A Go Fund Me page has been set up as well as a sponsorship page on the team’s website.

“A lot of sweat and grit went into this, but they made it,” O’Keefe says. “To me it’s no different than winning a seat to nationals for basketball. They deserve to be where they are.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Esquimalt High

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria writer releases first novel inspired by U.S. school shootings

Dear Mr. President tells thought provoking story of victims left behind

Saanich mayor joins fight to protect local wildlife from rat poisoning after second owl dies

Mayor Fred Haynes to meet with provincial, federal pest control industry representatives

Sidney fire responds to fewer but more severe calls during pandemic

Rise in severity linked to changes in routine during COVID-19 pandemic

Saanich police see spike in excessive speeding compared to previous years

Nearly 100 excessive speeders caught since January 2020

Colwood branch drop-off to continue throughout summer

COVID-19 safety measures remain in place

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Most Read