There’s a new, temporary tenant at Huntsville Place Mall: the Hoya Robotics team from Huntsville High School.
For the next month, the students will be using an empty space not far from Winners as a practice field in preparation for upcoming tournaments. They couldn’t be more excited.
Every year, the team has just six weeks to build a robot that’s able to accomplish a specific set of tasks before facing teams from across the province at FIRST Robotics competitions.
In the past, students have tested their robots and developed their driving skills in the school gym or cafeteria. This meant whatever field elements they constructed had to be fully portable for easy storage during the day. Now, the team will have a small practice field that can stay in place for the entire month.
“It’ll be so great to have a dedicated space,” says team captain Morghan Kiverago. “And even more importantly, we’re going to be able to put down the carpet used on the floor at the competition so we can practice driving on it.”
Kiverago explains that the hard, smooth surfaces of the gym and cafeteria are completely different from the standard tournament carpet, so members of the drive team have never been able to get a sense of how the robot would accelerate or stop before heading to competitions.
“Our first match every year was almost like our first time driving,” he says. “We had to learn how the robot would respond, which took time.”
This put them at a disadvantage compared to teams from larger centres who already had weeks of experience in dedicated practice fields complete with regulation carpet they had purchased. Last year, at the end of the tournament season, Hoya Robotics received used carpeting from the organizers. Ever since, they’ve been looking for a place to lay it down.
Ken Angle, Marketing Manager for Huntsville Place Mall, says the decision to donate the use of a vacant store was an easy one: “They needed the space and we had it. Why not? We like to be community-minded.”
Angle says he is impressed by what the team has managed to accomplish so far, and he is excited to help Hoya Robotics become even more competitive. “Plus, Ian [McTavish, the teacher in charge of the team] said I could drive the robot,” he adds with a chuckle.
Members of Hoya Robotics are grateful not only to the mall for providing the space, but also to Lovegrove Construction for donating all the plywood necessary to build a replica of this year’s FIRST Robotics playing field.
“This whole setup will make a huge difference to us and to other teams like Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, and Fenelon Falls, who we have invited to practice with us,” Kiverago says.
Members of the public are welcome to stop by, watch the team in action and ask questions. Practice times will vary, but Hoya Robotics members are most likely to be at the mall Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays after school and weekends during the day.
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