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G R E AT T E A C H I N G 27 March 2015 | Professionally Speaking PHOTOS: MARKIAN LOZOWCHUK EXCLUSIVE ONLINE Stanley Hunter, OCT, gears his students up for greatness in the wild world of robotics. BY TRISH SNYDER I t's the end of the day at Orchard Park Secondary School in the Hamilton- Wentworth District School Board, and as one group of students trickles out of a computer science and engineering class, a fresh batch shuffles in for an after-school meeting. The latter are members of Team 2056, Stanley Hunter's world-renowned robotics squad. They compete at robotics tournaments around North America using machines built to perform tasks with the precision of a Star Wars storm trooper while resembling something that escaped a high-tech assembly line. In Ontario, this team from Stoney Creek is the one to beat. At the meeting, students take turns reporting on team business — everything from a food drive with the Stoney Creek fire department that collected 3.5 tonnes of non-perishables to the robotics workshops that mesmerized visiting Grade 8s. After divvying up the day's to-do list, one pair goes off to fix a stalled robot while another inventories spare parts. Then Hunter delivers a sobering reminder about the team's sponsorship shortfall. They've raised $43,000 this year, but they still need $32,000 — robot parts don't come cheap. "Remember, kickoff is in 45 days," says the soft-spoken teacher, who can't help but smile as they burst into chatter in anticipation. Kickoff happens in January when FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the U.S.-based organization that runs these contests, releases the game the robots will play at tournaments. Past challenges have required them to sink basketballs or score soccer goals. But this isn't an individual boxing match; the machines must also work with their competition at the game to outscore opposing squads. Then there's the ambitious timeline — schools have six weeks to build their concept from top to bottom, which has students working up to 30 hours per week — on top of their classes and homework. One student sums it up for the rookies: "Kickoff is the day you can kiss your social life goodbye." To view our Great Teaching video archive, visit professionallyspeaking.oct.ca

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