Merge Robotics debuts competition robot

BEAVERBROOK – When the robot apocalypse comes, you better hope you have a member of the Merge Robotics team in your shelter.

The talented, young minds of the FIRST Robotics Team 2706: Merge Robotics debuted their 2019 competition robot at the Beaverbrook Library on Feb. 27. The team is unique in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Tech (FIRST) annual robotics competition in the way they are not affiliated with a school as most teams are. This team is made up of members and mentors from the west Ottawa community and run entirely by volunteers.

“Merge Robotics is a community-based team where high school students team up with industry professionals, scientists, engineers and programmers, to build the most impressive robots you’ve ever seen,” Carp mentor Kendra Shaw told West Carleton Online. “Built from scratch in only six weeks, their four-foot-tall, 120 pound robot will be ready to compete in these high intensity robo-sports.”

Despite not having the support of a school, Merge Robotics has found lots of success in the annual competition, competing at the world championship last year.

Last year's robot was a special guest of honour at the Merge Robotics unveil last week. Photo by Jake Davies
Last year’s robot was a special guest of honour at the Merge Robotics unveil last week. Photo by Jake Davies

Well it’s the start of another year and the 51-member team just finished building their competition robot and unveiled the robotic beast to a large crowd at the Beaverbrook Library last week. Actually, it’s their practice robot. Their competition robot is sealed up in a bag and will remain there until the regional competitions begin later this month (so really, the team builds two robots).

Roughly 10 member of the team and four mentors are from West Carleton.

“We’re bigger than last year,” Shaw said from the big unveil. “We’re bursting at the seams.”

The team heads to the Ryerson University district event from March 14 to March 16 at the former Maple Leaf Gardens.

The competition involves teams having six weeks to build a robot that must complete several tasks during competition.

“The game is space themed this year,” Shaw said. “We have two minutes and 30 seconds to complete our task and for the first 15 seconds we have to operate the robot blind and can only use sensors to guide our robot or make it autonomous.”

Merge Robotics decided to prepare for any eventuality.

“We can do both,” Shaw said. “We’re not sure what the strategy will be.”

The robot must be able to pick up a red ball, and deposit in a ‘cargo ship.’ The robot must also be able to block a hole so the ball doesn’t roll out. The robot must be able to reach 7’10” high to complete its tasks.

Kinburn’s Kevin Bird is in his fourth year on the team. He is a Grade 11 student at West Carleton Secondary School and is on Merge’s electrical team.

“This year we probably had the most time we’ve ever had to wire the robot,” Bird said.

And when the competition robot comes out of the bag, the team gets about six hours to tweak the machine in time for competition, based on what they have learned from working with the practice robot.

“Hopefully that’s enough time,” Bird said.

Bird says the addition of the sandstorm shouldn’t affect strategy too much.

“It doesn’t particularly change how we operate,” he said. “We will probably be going autonomous for the sandstorm. We feel that’s more precise.”

Bird says before he joined Merge Robotics he did a bit of wiring with small hobby kits “but nothing on this scale. We also tried to make it look good, because there are awards for that.”

Bird says he enjoys being part of the team and building competition robots.

“It’s all a learning experience,” he said. “The people are all positive and accepting. It’s a really fun environment and that includes the other teams as well. It’s a big family.”

This year Merge Robotics is also acting as a mentor. The team is providing guidance to Earl of March High School’s rookie team.

For more information on the team, visit their website here.