Okanagan College will be playing host to 76 teams at this year’s 7th Annual Western Canada RoboCup Junior Games, which takes place Friday, Nov. 30 at the Kelowna campus.
“This marks a record for this competition, with over 197 students from 22 schools in the Okanagan Valley,” said Okanagan College Electronic Engineering Technology instructor Nadir Ould-Khessal, who chairs the Western Canada event. “This is a tremendous turn-out, and it will make the competitions very exciting.”
Ould-Khessal, who also sits on the Canadian RoboCup National Committee, said students from Grade 4 to Grade 11 will be competing in teams to showcase robots they have programmed to dance, play soccer, or rescue victims from an artificial disaster.
Competition is expected to be tight between the middle schools, with Rutland fielding 10 teams, Springvalley eight teams, and Constable Neil Bruce another nine teams.
Ould-Khessal said a key reason for the big turnout is that RoboCup has now been integrated into School District 23’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) program for Grade 7 to 9 students.
Returning this year are defending RoboCup Junior World champions Hudson and Nelson Schier. The two young Vernon brothers honed their skills at successive Western Canada events held at the College before impressing judges with a win in the dance competition at the 2011 World event held in Istanbul, Turkey where 251 teams and 951 students took part.
This time the brothers will be competing separately – 15-year-old Hudson will be representing Clarence Fulton Secondary School in the secondary rescue category, while 13-year-old Nelson will be representing Vernon Secondary School in the primary soccer category.
Keeping up with RoboCup Junior spirit of friendship, teamwork and respect, Western Canada RoboCup Junior participants will wear pink t-shirts to project support for an anti-bullying message.
The origins of RoboCup date back to the early 1990s when a group of experts in artificial intelligence, including many from Canada, decided to host games to highlight the emerging capabilities of robots. In 1997 the organization introduced elementary and secondary school students to the field of robotics with the first RoboCup Junior event, which was held in Japan.
Today, Canada hosts three Junior events – the largest one in B.C. at Okanagan College, with two others in Ontario and Quebec. Successful teams at the Western Canada competition will go on to the Netherlands for the world championships in June 2013.
The 7th Annual Western Canada RoboCup Junior Games is sponsored by Okanagan College, ASTTBC (Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia), Tekmar Control Systems, and BC Hydro.