The Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School (BML) Robotics team is fresh off their first competition of the season, and now, they’re looking for sponsors and mentors to help them up their game.
The BML Robotics 6859 team has put together a robot that lifts and places cones as part of their participation in FIRST Robotics Competitions. Each year, the minds behind the competitions create a game and a corresponding set of tasks for the robotics teams to battle it out. This year, the game has teams form alliances and use their robots to earn points by moving cones or cubes and then returning to their docking station. Bill Bagshaw, lead mentor for BML Robotics, said they were able to buy robot parts with leftover money from last year, which was a huge help in a season where fundraising has been fraught with difficulty.
“We’ve definitely benefited greatly from our associations with our sponsors, and we have had a lot of sponsors fall on hard times,” he said. “One of our sponsors has reduced their donation by $2,000. We’re having difficulty raising funds, and so we’re looking for some more help from the community.”
After the team took a one-year hiatus in 2021, Bagshaw became the lead mentor for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. He first got involved with robotics when his son joined the Gravenhurst team in 2018, and he’s continued helping their team while also taking the reins for BML’s team.
Most of the team’s funding comes from large sponsors like OPG and RBC. They receive help from local service clubs as well, which allows them to cover the $6,000 team fee required to participate. Parent volunteers also cover most of the transportation, but they need more support to ensure the team can continue beyond this season.
“It’s a great opportunity for young people to be exposed to like-minded individuals and also caring adults,” Bagshaw said. “There are things to do for people who are interested in business and in marketing. There are things to do for people who want to be part of a club, and there are definitely things there for people who want to be engineers and programmers.”
Grade 12 student Lauren Puchala is one of the team members who got involved because of her interest in business rather than engineering. She hopes to pursue a career in business or management, so she sees robotics as a chance to practice overseeing a team.
“During our last competition at Georgian College, I was able to go down to the field where the matches were being played and have the opportunity to see firsthand how the robots have not only positively influenced my teammates but also other teams,” she said. “That has influenced me to become more involved with the technical aspect of our robot as well.”
Puchala said the competition brought them closer because they had to work together to problem solve, especially because their lead mentor was out with COVID. Bagshaw was heartbroken to miss the first competition of the season, so he’s grateful to fellow mentors Tim Maleske and Rick Pierce as well as Principal Tanya Fraser for stepping in to help.
The team placed 25th out of 28 teams, so they’re working hard to improve the robot before their next competition in North Bay from March 24 to 26. Puchala is excited to see the progress they’ve made on the robot, but more than anything, the best part of robotics for her is the people she’s met.
“There are so many great personalities, and everyone has been truly welcoming towards me and other members who have recently joined,” Puchala said. “We all have the same goals regarding the team and our robot, so it’s really nice to see how everyone helps everyone.”
The team is also looking for someone to assist them in fundraising and marketing. Bagshaw said as a Physics teacher, it’s not his strong suit, so he’s hoping to bring on a committed volunteer to train the students in raising and managing money for the team.
Their next big expense will be getting hotel rooms in North Bay for the competition, so they’re aiming to kickstart fundraising to ensure they have money for materials at the start of next season. Still, their primary focus is improving the robot, which could benefit from the help of a new programming teacher and his students.
In addition, the team is looking at implementing active wheels that reach out and grab the cones instead of passively picking them up as the robot does now. Regardless of whether it’s ready in time for competition, Bagshaw said they’re working hard to grow their skills, and he can’t wait to be there with them as they compete in North Bay.
“We’re looking for a good positive team coherence, and we’re going to tweak our robot to try and make it get a little bit more done,” Bagshaw said. “But I’m trying to just encourage the kids, in general, to learn as much as they can, to be involved in all of the repairs and all of the things, and just try to train as many people to learn whatever they can learn.”
To offer support as a sponsor or mentor, contact Bill Bagshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.