The regional VEX Robotics Regional Tournament was an all-day qualifying competition for provincials in March. Photo by Erin Haluschak

WATCH: Teams gather in Comox for VEX competition

More than 40 teams across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland gathered Saturday at Highland Secondary School in Comox for an annual robotics tournament.

The VEX Robotics Regional Tournament was an all-day qualifying competition for provincials in March.

“This is STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at its best,” said teacher and event organizer Steve Claassen.

“There’s two teams on each side – red and blue – always four robots in a ring at the same time and they work together to score points. The side that has the most points at the end, wins.”

Claassen said the tournament highlights teamwork and collaboration – essential skills for students, post-high school.

“I’ve been teaching 25 years; in the last 10 years, this has come on. Trades skills, engineering – this is a perfect way for their outlet. It inspires kids,” he explained.

“I’ve had kids that start out here, and then you find out five years later, they’re in engineering, and they’re working on a NASA project or they’re working for Google … a lot of times the kids who are doing this … you’re encouraging those kids through this to look at their future.”

“I want to go into automation – building robots,” explained Grade 11 student Evan Claassen.

Zeke Gregory said after high school, he wants to become a pilot.

“So that’s why I’m the driver on our team because it helps me get used to different things that are directly correlated with (that).”

Eighteen teams, representing G.P. Vanier Secondary, Mark R. Isfeld Secondary and NIDES, competed in 2018 with four teams (two from Isfeld and two from NIDES) advancing to the provincial level. For the first time, two teams represented by NIDES – Navigators 7842F and 7842B – qualified for the world championship with team 7842F capturing the Build Award for creativity and innovation.

This year, NIDES 7842F and 7842K teams won the tournament and are off to the provincials.

7K (local independent kids that use to be on a Mark R. Isfeld robotics team) had the top skills score that is now second best in the world. Also, they received the “Build Award” for the best-built robot.

NIDES 7842F team won the Excellence Award for best overall robot design performance from a panel of six engineers that were judges.

Winners from the regional competition will compete in the provincials; the winners from the March event will travel to the world competition which takes places in Kentucky in April.

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