George Flumerfelt admits he was floored when he first watched a robotics event in North Bay.
The CEO and president of the Redpath Group initially thought robotics was only for nerds and intellects.
He doesn’t think that anymore.
In fact, now the head of the mining contracting and engineering firm believes robotic teams may be developing future engineers.
That’s why Flumerfelt is a platinum sponsor for the FIRST Robotics district event that will take place at Nipissing University from April 6 to 8.
“We like to do things that benefit the youth in our community where it’s possible,” said Flumerfelt.
“In our business — mining contractors and engineers — there is a fairly high technology component to what we do and people who could have a future with our company or the mining industry in general so it’s a natural sponsorship for us.”
FIRST — an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — aims to encourage youth to enter science and technology careers by offering them mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.
The annual robotics competition requires students to raise funds, design a team brand, and build and program industrial-sized robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors — all in just six weeks.
Organizers of the North Bay event held a media launch on Feb. 27 just in time for the competition season to start.
Three northeastern Ontario teams were at the launch at Nipissing University including FIRST Team 4069 from Lo-Ellen Robotics in Sudbury; FIRST Team 4152, Hoya Robotics, out of Huntsville; and the host FIRST Team 1305, Ice Cubed, out of North Bay.
The North Bay team has been gearing up the competitive season as they have been working on their new robot since Jan. 7.
This year’s competition theme is about steampunk, which is a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
“Disney is involved with FIRST Robotics now and they are promoting the games and making them really colourful and fun and playful,” stated organizer Nancy Dewar-Stenning.
“So they have played up on the steampunk thing that’s going on right now, so Steamworks is the name of the game and that’s what they do. There’s an airship, it’s a complex game and it’s a lot of fun.”
Ice Cubed team member Jessica Kelso is excited for the competitive season to begin.
“Today is a day to celebrate the build season is over and competition season is beginning so hopefully we are ready,” she said.
Kelso is also pumped knowing the big sponsors may be looking at future engineers during robotics competition.
“A lot of our sponsors in general are just people who are involved in our team event so they get so excited about it, and it’s just a giant gym full of nerds but nerds about all different things,” she said.
The North Bay team will take part in its first robotics competition of 2017 in Oshawa this weekend.