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‘It’s pretty unfortunate’: Stratford robotics team hits financial roadblock ahead of world championships


A high school robotics team in Stratford is beating up its competition in high-tech robot design.

At Stratford District Secondary School (SDSS), around 60 students from grades 9 to 12 are designing, building, and programming their own remote-controlled and fully autonomous robots.

The students are split into four teams to compete in the Vex Robotics Competition, the largest competitive robotics tournament in the world.

High school teams from around the globe design robots to compete in an arena by picking up, pushing, or shooting objects into a net.

“The season has gone pretty well for us,” said Marek Carter, a grade 12 student at SDSS. “We’ve been really successful. Probably the most successful we’ve ever been.”

SDSS’s A-team took home first place at a recent competition in Brampton and qualified for the national championships in Edmonton, but expenses and high travel costs forced the team to stay home.

“It’s pretty unfortunate because it’s something that I think a lot of our team would have wanted to go to,” Carter explained. “We were competitive enough to be able to be there and be one of the more competitive teams.”

Each robot can cost up to $2,000 to build.

Andrew Bradshaw, an engineering teacher at the school, said the program takes in $5,000 to $10,000 in funding from local sponsors each year - one of the lower budgets among contending teams at each tournament.

Bradshaw adds travel could cost up to $4,000 per student.

“When we go against these teams from Toronto and Brampton they have huge school budgets, lots of money going into the program. We’re held back by that,” 12th grader Nathaniel Smith said. “Now with the fact that we can overcome those challenges and we might get stomped by the fact that we don’t have the money to go to nationals, it just feels not great.”

With a chance of qualifying for the world championships in Dallas this April, the program is calling out to more sponsors for support.

Bradshaw says it’s not just an opportunity to showcase their mechanical marvels, but also network for future opportunities.

“From NASA to Apple, Google, they’re all at these competitions. A lot of big universities are at these competitions because these are their future students and future employees,” Bradshaw said.

If they qualify and find the money to travel to Dallas, the students say the trip would be a proud moment for the school and city.

“We would be representing Stratford on a global scale,” Smith said. “It would just give us a great feeling of pride being able to do that. Top Stories

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