Vanier team qualifies for robotics world championship

JARON PIERCY (left) and Scott Theriault of Georges P. Vanier Secondary School have qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championship after winning the B.C. VEX Robotics Championships at BCIT. - PHOTO SUBMITTED
JARON PIERCY (left) and Scott Theriault of Georges P. Vanier Secondary School have qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championship after winning the B.C. VEX Robotics Championships at BCIT.
— image credit: PHOTO SUBMITTED

Jaron Piercy and Scott Theriault have qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championship after only their second tournament of the year.

The Grade 10 students from Georges P. Vanier Secondary School were in an alliance with students from Gladstone Secondary School in Vancouver which won the B.C. VEX Robotics Championships last weekend at BCIT.

Twenty-four of the top robotics teams competed in Division A, and Theriault and Piercy moved into the top division when their coach, Vanier electronics/robotics engineering teacher Steve Claassen put them into Division A.

"We weren't expecting something that big," said Piercy. "It's awesome."

Theriault was surprised to win.

"It's pretty crazy," he said. "It was kind of unexpected, but it's a good feeling."

As the winning alliance champions, Theriault and Piercy have qualified for the World Championship April 14-16 at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

They also won acceptance into any BCIT program of their choice after graduation.

Theriault and Piercy had fun at the tournament, which, according to organizers, was the fifth largest in the world this year, with 54 teams from B.C. and western Washington competing at BCIT.

"It was a good experience," said Theriault.

"We were really pumped," added Piercy. "We were pumped as soon as we got onto the top team's spot and kept getting more intense from there."

The two friends, who also play on the same basketball team, are excited to represent Vanier at the Worlds.

"Oh wow, crazy," said Theriault. "It's almost overwhelming that a little team from Vancouver Island is going to the Worlds in Florida."

They are both looking forward to the experience when they travel to the World Championships.

"It's the Worlds - it's the highest competition out there," said Piercy.

"The best competitors are going to be there," noted Theriault. "We're going to see what their robots are like ... plus, it's Disney World."

Piercy has been interested in robotics since hearing about it in Grade 8.

"I just liked the idea of it, building," he said.

Theriault joined Vanier's Robotics Club in Grade 9.

"I saw a bunch of people doing it, and it looked like a lot of fun," he said. "I tried it out, and it was. It's challenging."

Between now and the World Championship, Theriault and Piercy are going to rebuild their robot so that it is "better, faster, stronger," according to Theriault.

"I want to get this done as soon as possible so that it's all programming," said Piercy. "Robots are one part, and making the robot move is another."

Theriault does the programming, and he will be tweaking the programming before the Worlds.

"I think we're basing it off our old design and basing it on some of the things we saw and what went wrong," he said of the re-design.

Claassen has been impressed by Theriault and Piercy.

"I think they've got a dedication to try to make something work," he said. "Both have this knack for engineering, both in class and in robotics competitions. I can see both these guys going all the way in engineering in their lives."

Claassen is excited to see the team qualify for Worlds.

"As a coach, you're absolutely thrilled," he said. "It goes to show if you put in the time and you're dedicated to something, you can achieve great things."

Another team from Vanier, Matt Ehrler and Mac Quinn, made it to the quarterfinals in Division A at BCIT.

They placed 12th in the qualifying rounds to advance to the playoffs, where they were eliminated by Theriault and Piercy.

In all, seven local teams competed in the B.C. VEX Robotics Championships.

There were five local teams in Division B, the rookie division.

The three teams from Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School finished 11th, 13th and 14th in the qualifying round and were all eliminated in the quarterfinals in the playoffs.

The team from Cumberland Junior School had technical issues and placed 28th in the qualifying round, and the team from Vanier was sixth in the qualifying rounds, making it to the semifinals before being eliminated and placing fifth in the autonomous programming challenge.

This is the second straight year that a team from Vanier has qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championship. Quinn and Ehrler competed in the Worlds last year, as did a team from Lake Trail School — Tina Tang, William Wood-McDonnell and Martin Kellinghusen.

Theriault and Piercy are now looking for community support to help them get to Orlando, and anyone wishing to help them get to the Worlds can contact their coach, Steve Claassen, at 250-338-9262 or

LifeSupport Patient Transport, B.C.’s largest private ambulance service, has already donated to help make this trip happen.

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