District Highlights

Thomas Haney Secondary students build robot for global competition

Meet the ThunderTech Robotics team’s newest invention: A nearly 130-pound industrial size robot that’s twice as powerful as a Ford F-150.

“It’s about as powerful as the latest Tesla Model S,” said Matvey Okoneshnikov, a Grade 12 student at Thomas Haney Secondary and team leader of software. “That’s a lot of power, but we needed that power for the robot to lift itself off the ground for the last part of the competition.”

The Thomas Haney team built the robot for the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international contest where high school students design, build and program robots within six weeks to compete in a game against each other.

“Many people assume immediately it’s kind of like BattleBots, but it isn’t. You are not allowed to intentionally damage other robots,” Okoneshnikov said.

The game is different every year and comes with a 200-page rulebook. This year, the game required robots to pick up foam rings from the ground or a platform and shoot them into targets at different heights. The final challenge was for the robot to hang itself from a chain without touching the ground.

“It’s a very well-known competition and it’s a great opportunity for students to work with high-tech equipment and real-world applications of robotics,” explained Okoneshnikov.

Once the rulebook was published in January, the team got to work. They secured funding from sponsors – including the Thomas Haney Parent Advisory Council (PAC), Motorola Solutions Foundation, and McFarlen Engineering – and began building their robot.

Grade 12 student Daniil Batishchev, the hardware team leader, spent more than 600 hours working on the robot.

“Our main idea was to make everything from metal because metal is strong,” Batishchev explained. “The robot has three main parts: the drivetrain, arm and the shooter system. All three parts are replaceable so if something happens to our robot, we can always replace [it].”Cobra Chicken, the robot built by ThunderTech Robotics for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

When they finished building the robot, they came up with the perfect name: Cobra Chicken, a slang term for the Canada goose.

“We named it that because if we made it to Worlds, we wanted to be able to represent Canada to its fullest,” said team leader of electronics and Grade 10 student Logan Humeniuk. “We also leaned into some of the other stereotypes, such as plaid flannel jackets and embracing the flag’s colour scheme in our logo.”

At the end of February, ThunderTech Robotics travelled to Victoria to take part in the Canadian Pacific Regional event of the competition.

And that’s when it all fell apart.

“We got to the competition and we rebuilt every single part of this robot,” said Humeniuk.

“Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,” added Okoneshnikov.

It started with the robot’s frame, which they discovered was six inches over the allowed specifications.

“Nobody thought that a rookie team was going to be able to pull past that,” said Humeniuk. “But we got in there with angle grinders. We were cutting parts of the robot off and we stuck it back together, and sure enough, within an hour we were back on the field playing with a certified robot.”

But the problems didn’t end there. The team also had to rebuild the intake and shooter mechanism and replace the main computer that controls the robot.

“Even with all that, we still had a very impressive showing on the field,” Okoneshnikov said.

Although they didn’t place or move on to Worlds, ThunderTech Robotics still ended strong, winning the 2024 Innovation in Control Award.

“We were blown away. There are no rookie teams that we’re aware of that have gotten the award in the past, so it’s a huge deal for us,” Humeniuk said. “It’ll hopefully allow us to get some more sponsors so that we [can] fund our robot for next year.”

“It’s kind of the crown jewel of our collection.”

The 2024 Innovation in Control Award given to ThunderTech Robotics for the Canadian Pacific Regional event of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Our vision
Our vision is for every individual to feel valued and for all learners to reach their potential.
Our mission
Our mission is to support all individuals in their development as successful learners, and as respectful, caring and responsible members of society.