Comox Valley team qualifies for world robotics championship

A group of Navigate (North Island Distance Education School) students are provincial VEX Robotics champions and will go to the VEX Robotics world championship in California. - Photo submitted
A group of Navigate (North Island Distance Education School) students are provincial VEX Robotics champions and will go to the VEX Robotics world championship in California.
— image credit: Photo submitted

A group of Navigate students were named provincial champions during this past weekend's VEX Robotics Championship at BCIT in Burnaby.

Navigate (North Island Distance Education School) team 7842D has also qualified for April's VEX Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, Calif. Navigate teacher and VEX robotics coach Stewart Savard points out Navigate started building VEX robots just during the previous school year, and he's delighted with the team's success.

"I think we're kind of pinching ourselves," he says. "It was kind of a dream and our dream this year has come true."

Navigate had four VEX teams this year, Mark R. Isfeld had three and Highland had two. The qualifying Navigate team did so a couple of weeks ago at a provincial qualifying tournament at Gladstone Secondary School in Vancouver. Isfeld's team 1136A led an alliance which they invited 7842D to be part of. That alliance placed second, and both Comox Valley teams qualified for the world championship. Students on this Isfeld team went to the world championship last year, too.

The world championship runs from April 23 to 26 at the Anaheim Convention Centre. At the secondary school level, the championship could attract as many as 400 teams.

Robots for VEX tournaments are made using bought components, which students then put together to create a robot designed to complete a specified task. Robots this year need to pick up small balls (buckyballs) and larger balls (similar size as beach balls).

Teamwork is a large component of VEX robotics; students work together to build their robot but they also work with other teams in three-team alliances at tournaments.

Because Navigate is a distance education school, students come from Cumberland, Courtenay and Comox, as well as places outside the Comox Valley, like Qualicum Beach and Mount Washington. So, says Savard, students don't simply meet after class like they do at other schools. Instead, they get together Friday evenings with some students joining in via technology.

"We use Skype and we just call it up on the big screens, and we can talk back and forth and show off ideas to each other," explains Savard, adding the setup imposes some limits on what the teams can do, and they must all physically meet sometimes to test their robots out on each other.

"This really shows how Navigate students can work together even when they don’t live close to one another," adds Navigate student and 7842D teammate Lana Harach.

The Navigate and Isfeld teams will fundraise to help pay for travel to the world championship. Anyone interested in making a donation to Navigate can contact Stewart Savard at, or call the school at 250-337-5300. To donate to Isfeld, contact Randy Grey at or call the school at 250-334-2428.


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