Skills Robotics (Skills Canada) offers students a chance to push the boundaries of engineering by giving students a safe learning environment where they are taught to use machinery and their brains to solve the unique challenges thrown at them. Skills provides students with a chance to hone in their machining skills, while also developing upon their critical thinking, time management, ingenuity, and a perseverance skills. While Skills is usually open to those who have used machinery as it requires a degree of skill those who show a desire to learn may be accepted.
The 2012 Skills Challenge dealt with having to move wooden pallets into a 5x5 grid against another robot. There was also the added challenge of having to traverse an obstacle either a maze, a ramp, or a flight of stairs. The robot itself required a lot of planning and a chassis was built out of aluminum and had omnidirectional wheels to provide better mobility. The lift was similar to a forklift and the intake system was like a conveyor belt. There was only the one competition that year and there were still few participants but they were still some of the best in the Peel Region. It was tough but in the end we had won and had qualified to the provincial competition in Waterloo. During the provincials there was initially some concerns because of how well programmed our robot was and after some clarification on both sides we continued unhindered the rest of the way. After managing to do pretty well throughout the competition the team managed to secure a bronze medal at this event. While not qualifying for the 2014 International Competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we were still proud at our work.
In 2013 the competition had to deal with shooting hockey pucks onto a raised scoring platform. The team this year had made a robot that was agile and ingeniously used a hammer as a method to hit the puck. There was a great amount of tuning and refining for that shooter and during the in-house mock games that went on the team did exceptionally. Unfortunately, during the regional tournament the team couldn’t not place well enough to represent Peel in the provincial competition. While disappointed in their performance there they knew what they were capable of and refused to give up.
2014’s Skills challenge was given the scenario of two farmers accidently growing crops in the same patch of land and having to sell their product before their rival. The team toiled away on different methods and strategies. They were inspired by the large wheat collection machines often used out in western Canada and applied similar logic to their robot. Again the team was just barely unable to secure a position for the provincials but once again they were also not discouraged by their momentary defeat.
Every year the Robot and Control Systems competition has the same challenge. There are two different coloured balls and they need to be sorted appropriately without mistake. Hours upon hours were given to our team to master not only building the device and program it but also on how to improve upon the current design. In 2012 and 2013 our team had won gold in this event and were snubbed in 2014 and having to settle with a respectable silver medal.