‘It’s very neat’: Manitoba Robot Games sparking students’ interest in STEM careers
Students from across the province gathered on Saturday to compete in the 25th Manitoba Robot Games and learn valuable engineering skills.
Ria Sagert was among the many students competing in the games held inside Tec Voc High School.
Her robot is completely autonomous — tasked with moving a barrel through a maze.
The grade 12 student said the project affirmed her future plans to go into engineering.
“Yes, yeah, for sure,” said Sagert. “It really gets me into coding and seeing how this can kind of be a manufacturing plant and how a robot could actually deliver this stuff. It’s very neat.”
Sagert is part of the Robot Fight Club, which is run by WISE Kid-netic Energy at the University of Manitoba.
The team specifically focuses on getting girls interested in STEM, which has historically been male-dominated.
“We cater to girls as well as trans folks, non-binary to be inclusive and bring that diversity to the field,” explained Rebecca Chin, a community initiative coordinator at WISE Kid-netic Energy. “Bringing everyone’s identities, contributions, and experiences can lead to more creative solutions.”
Students at the games can compete in several categories, like obstacle racing or robot sumo wrestling.
Regardless of what sport they compete in, students take home important skills.
“The hard skills are that technical piece. They built the robot themselves. They had to figure out where to put the sensors, so learning about how technology works, how the coding works,” said Chin. “And then the soft skills, that team building and having to work with other people because all these participants are from different schools.”
According to its most recent labour market outlook, the province expects there will be a shortfall of several hundred employees in the architecture and engineering field over the next three years.
It’s an issue Alan Pollard, a retired engineer and executive member of the Manitoba Robot Games, said is already hitting the industry.
“For a number of years in engineering, we’ve had gaps, and people are trying to hire engineers,” he said. “We don’t want to poach them from other schools, other countries and other provinces, but it does happen.”
It’s a gap that students inspired by the games will one day help to fill. Students like robot sumo wrestling champ Samuel Peters, who wants to be an architect.
“Honestly, I do believe it does reinforce that idea, but I also believe these skills that I learned could also lead to other jobs,” said the grade eight student from Carman Collegiate.
Peters said while competing was a little stressful, winning the championship felt very good.
This is the competition’s first year back since the pandemic started. Organizers say attendance was slightly down from previous years but hope to hold its biggest competition yet next year.
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