Elmira will be well-represented at the Skills Canada competition in May, when teams from St. Teresa Elementary School and Park Manor Public School face off against schools from across the province.
At regional competitions last week, St. Teresa came home with a gold, a silver and a bronze. The gold medal-winning Grade 4-6 Lego robotics team will advance to the provincials.
In the public board competition, Park Manor won five medals: three gold, a silver and a bronze. The 4-6 technology, 4-6 Lego mechanics and 7-8 Lego robotics teams will be heading to the provincials.
Teacher Dan Peters said Park Manor has consistently done well at the regional competition the past few years.
“When they were giving out the medals, they were even commenting on it. ‘And here’s Park Manor again,’” he said.
“It’s nice to hear, but it’s a little humbling too. We do stress having fun, cooperating, having a learning experience.”
Practice for the competition starts in early January, with the teams meeting at lunch for several hours each week.
The students don’t know what challenge they’ll be given at the competition, but they practice useful skills, building on concepts in the structures and mechanisms strand of the science curriculum and learning about things like gears, pulleys, wheels and axles.
“They’re not going in cold, they have a basic understanding of how things work,” said Cheryl Elliot-Fraser, who helps the students at St. Teresa prepare.
Teamwork is also a big part of the competition. At the end of the robotics competitions, the teams had to prepare a power point presentation on how they solved the challenge and present it to the judges.
“Team building really is a big part of this because you can’t go and have conflicts and expect to win,” Peters said. “Our three winning teams really did work quite well together and they deserve to move on.”
Park Manor also had a team in the new 7-8 video competition, in which they had to prepare and show a video. That competition ended with a viewing, not judging; it’s a new category, and Skills Canada is trying to get other schools interested.
There are separate competitions for the separate and public boards at the regional level, but all the winning teams meet for the provincial competition.
Three hundred students will compete in 11 categories at the provincials, to be held May 4 at RIM Park in Waterloo. That gives the students at St. Teresa and Park Manor a few more weeks to brush up and practice.
“We hope to practice up a little bit more for the provincials and hopefully we’ll come in not second or third, but we’ll place first,” Peters said. “That would be a nice victory for our kids too.”