Surrey robotics team off to the world championships

The Enver Creek Robotics Club prepares for a recent competition. The club is in Anaheim this week competing at the worlds. Submitted photo via Surrey Now.

KATYA SLEPIAN
SURREY NOW

SURREY — It’s a long way from a club in Surrey to the world robotics championships but having already gotten there once, Munraj Grewal wants to get even further this time.

“Last year we didn’t do as well as we expected because we were rookies [but] this year I think we’ll do a lot better.”

The tall 16-year-old pauses, suddenly shy. “I think we even have a chance at winning our division and hopefully the Worlds.”

It’s an ambitious dream for a club that started out with four kids and one robot.

“We bought one robotics kit and built a robot, went to a couple of competitions and it just grew from there,” says club organizer Travis Burroughs.

Four short years ago, Burroughs, who teaches engineering, drafting and metalwork at Enver Creek Secondary, got the idea to start a robotics club after a few students expressed an interest. The team started out competing in local championships and after a couple of years at that level, they decided to aim higher.

“If you win one of those [local] tournaments you get to go to the B.C. Season Qualifier and then if you get an award, you get to qualify for the [VEX Robotics High School World] Championships in Anaheim,” explains Grewal, a Grade 11 student.

But before the club even gets to that first tournament, there’s a lot of work to be done.

“The process starts with a design. We get out the sketchbooks and draw what we’re going to do, what the game is, what we need to overcome, any obstacles, anything that we might face,” explains Nick Tsimoshkin, 16, who’s in his third year in the club. Then, the students build prototypes and fine-tune the robots until they’re satisfied.

“[It's] a lot of trial and error,” admits Burroughs. “But this year, they’ve just been ahead of things and they’ve managed to keep the robot at a nice solid level all the way along.”

It helps that the school and the PAC have been so supportive.

“We’re the only school in Surrey that has its own court and playing field and that really helps the kids work on their ideas and build their projects. It’s all packed away but here…” he trails off, pointing at a few photos on the screen.

“So the robots unfold and then they can pick up these big balls and these little ones and then they’ve got to drive over that bump and under here and then they’ve got to score goals.”

As he talks, his voice grows more and more excited and it’s easy to see where the kids get their enthusiasm from.

It’s this enthusiasm that’s inspired Grewal and Tsimoshkin to follow many of the club’s alumni who have gone on to engineering programs at BCIT, UBC and SFU.

“I would like to (do) mechatronics, maybe avionics mechatronics, but I’m definitely going into an engineering field, that’s for sure because that’s something I enjoy, something I really look forward to doing later in life,” says Tsimoshkin.

If he does go in that direction, it’ll be a continuation of a lifelong dream.

“I’ve been interested in robotics and building things [for a long time] but I never got a chance in elementary school or in early high school [to do that] so in grade nine I joined junior robotics.”

The decision to join the club was an equally easy one for Grewal.

“I’ve always been a hands on sort of person and I’ve always liked building things so when I saw that our school had it I just joined.”

The excitement over the Robotics Club has even reached Tim Cross, the principal. He’s thrilled to have a club that makes kids who would never join a sports team feel like they’re a part of the school community.

“They’re getting challenged like they were never challenged before, in an area that they’re really passionate about,” he says.

Grinning, he adds that, “I anticipate the trip down to the world championships to be an annual event, not just every once in a while.”

“The kids are doing an outstanding job representing Enver Creek, Mr. Burroughs and themselves and you couldn’t ask for anything better,” he says proudly. “Two world championships, two years in a row is a very successful club when you think that they’re competing [with teams from] all around the world.”

Read more Surrey Now news here.

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