Kepler already a winner

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It’s always a bit sad when it comes time to say goodbye to your robot.

Just ask Nickolas de Boer. The Grade 12 student at Widdifield Secondary School has been with FIRST Team 1305 – Ice Cubed – for going on seven years.

Which means he has built, and disassembled, seven of his robotic teammates over the years.

“It’s always sad when you have to dismantle them,” he said Thursday as he and teammates Dylan Lebel – like de Boer one of the drivers on the team – Colton Chaput and Gabby Russo unveiled Kepler, this year’s robotic build.

Each of those robots, de Boer says, has had its own personality. And saying goodbye to them has been somewhat emotional to the team members.

Kepler – named for the German astronomer who outlined the laws of planetary orbits – is Team 1305’s entry in Destination: Deep Space, the “game” this year for the international robotics competition.

Robots and their human teammates will be moving “cargo” – in this case large balls or Styrofoam blocks – to and from “spacecraft” on the competition floor.


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And although he (she?) hasn’t moved any cargo around, Kepler is already a winner. When teams from around the world unveiled their robots at a reveal party a few weeks ago, Kepler was voted the best looking robot in Canada, and ranked seventh in the world.

This year’s space theme in an homage to 1969, when Apollo 11’s Eagle lunar module landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

This year marks the 19th year Team 1305 has been in existence, and will also be the sixth year a regional competition has been held in North Bay.

Team members represent almost every secondary school in North Bay. De Boer and Lebel are students at Widdifield, while Russo is at St. Joseph-Scollard Hall. Chaput, the team captain, goes to Algonquin.

This is Chaput’s third year with Team 1305, and he’s looking forward to the local event being held at the end of the month.

“It’s great to compete in front of the home crowd,” he says. For one thing, “it’s easier to get there in person,” but “it’s a great way to show off” to family and friends.

The time he has spent with the team – which has included seven-day work weeks and long, long days – “is the best years of my life.”

“I’ve learned how to be a leader and how to motivate others,” Russo said, while being part of the team itself is “so welcoming.

“It’s fun, exciting and gives you real life experience and confidence.”

It’s her first year with the team, but already she admits there’s nothing else like it in the city.

Nipissing University President Dr. Mike DeGagne – the local event is hosted by the university in the Robert J. Surtees Athletic Centre – said the launch of the FIRST season “is one of my favourite times of the year.

“The tremendous enthusiasm (participants display) and to see all the wonderfully motivated students is . . . something we wait for every year.”

The North Bay Regional event will be held March 28 to 30.

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