The Kinetic Knights robotics team of Kincardine will be returning to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) world championships for the third year in a row, after earning a spot at the Greater Toronto East Regional in Oshawa on the weekend.
Unlike the first two times, though, this invitation to the worlds is not based on the strength of their robot, but stems from winning the Chairman's Award.
At regional events, a team can win the robotics competition, rewarding it for the hard work in designing, engineering, building, programming and driving a robot as it competes in matches with, and against, the other teams. Regional winners are presented with trophies and are invited to play at the world championships (held in St. Louis, Missouri, in April again this year).
However, at each regional, the highest recognition, is the Chairman's Award, which is presented to a team that exemplifies the value of gracious professionalism, as well as promoting a passion for science, technology, engineering and math. Judges look for all-round strong performance, from safety behaviours to business planning to team growth to community outreach.
Besides submitting an essay, creating a five-minute video and making a presentation to a panel of judges, team members are interviewed about a range of topics including how being involved in the FIRST robotics program has affected them and what they have learned about robotics as well as themselves. In Oshawa, Team 781 was given that highest recognition and with that, earned the invitation to the worlds. The Kinetic Knights, led by a committed team of mentors, showed the judges that although from a small town in rural Ontario, they are the kind of people who can hold their own on the world stage, firstly on the strength of their technical expertise and now on the strength of their program and their team.
They have been, and continue to be, great ambassadors for their community and their sponsors.
In their video, submitted as part of their application, the final words are: "... it's not about building a robot, it's about building people." The team has two more competitions (in Waterloo and in Cleveland) before heading to St. Louis in mid-April. Before heading out, the Kinetic Knights plan to hold some fund-raising events to help pay for the trip.
Also Bill Jackson, a mentor with the Kinetic Knights robotics team of Kincardine, is very much a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. However, Friday night at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Greater Toronto East Regional robotics competition, he was front and centre as the recipient of the Woodie Flowers Award for mentors who lead, inspire and empower, using excellent communication skills.
The following is the nomination put forward by FRC Team 781 (Kinetic Knights) in support of Jackson: "For the past 12 years, the mentors of Team 781 have been committed to putting students first. Although the team is student-run in many regards, our mentors continue to donate their time to keep the program running.
"Since joining the team in 2004, Bill F. Jackson has worked to make FIRST possible for hundreds of Kinetic Knights by securing team sponsorships, assisting the build team, and doing the little things to bring out the best in every student.
"As a non-profit organization, our program would not be possible without donations from our sponsors. Bill has served as the team contact for the Power Workers’ Union, and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorships to keep the team financially sustainable. He works tirelessly behind-the-scenes so that all students have the opportunity to benefit from robotics.
"Additionally, Bill instills confidence in team members by finding time for everyone, and is always enthusiastic about teaching others. Whenever we need a mentor contact, he willingly offers his name.
"Recently, he started a sub-group within the team dedicated to sponsorship. Bill opened this group up to any interested members, and guided them through the sponsorship process to make connections in the community and promote future sustainability.
"Dedication is one of Bill’s most outstanding qualities, and is exemplified through his involvement in both FLL (FIRST Lego League) and FRC (FIRST Robotics Canada). He built tables for the Kincardine FLL program, all of which are still in use today.
"Because of his preparations for border crossings, Team 781 has been able to attend international events. In addition, Bill personally transports the robot and tools to the Indiana Robotics Invitational each summer. At every competition, you will find Bill in the pits, supervising and providing feedback as the students make robot repairs.
- Gregory Dadson