Students Rise To New Heights at World Robotics Championship


Louisville Kentucky recently played host to the VEX Robotics World Championships for both elementary and secondary school programs. The culmination of 11 months of intense efforts by over 12,000 teams in 48 countries, this event would crown the champions for 4 different age divisions.

A pair local of independent teams who won their respective divisions at the Provincial Championships competed at the World Championships. They did not disappoint as they faced off against the best from the rest of the world.

In the elementary division (grades 3 to 6) of the VEX IQ Challenge, iSMAK, consisting of Ila Giroux, Kavi Giroux and Max Shillingford from FH Clergue, entered the contest ranked 1st of over 6000 teams in the Skills Challenge rankings, a combination of driver and programming skills scores. They showed their strength with an impressive performance in the team matchplay portion, where teams are randomly paired with partner teams to play the minute long teamwork scoring matches.

Language challenges were a factor as they partnered with teams from Bahrain and India in two matches, but iSMAK consistently posted some of the highest match scores of the 2-day qualifying portion. They finished their division ranked 2nd of 82 teams, one of five different divisions in the 409-team event. Their 2nd place ranking would pair them with the division’s topped ranked team from China.

In the division finals, iSMAK’s partner team fumbled a 2-point scoring hub and leaving them with a final score of 38, two points shy of winning their division. iSMAK would bring home the division’s silver trophy, the highest ever for a Sault team in the VEX IQ World level.

In the Skills Challenge matches, iSMAK would try to duplicate their world-leading 51-point score. Teams from around the world came to congratulate them on their impressive season record and would cheer them on in the World Challenge. However, iSMAK came up a little short, with a final tally of 49 points, and finished 5th place in the World.

Once again, iSMAK posted the highest ever Skills ranking for a Sault team, showing our local talent can compete on the world stage.

“The best part of Worlds this year for me, was making it to the division finals with a team from China that didn’t speak English very well,” said iSMAK’s team programmer and co-driver Kavi Giroux. “We were able to communicate with the language of robotics! It was a really great feeling to have won an award at Worlds, that was amazing!”.

In the secondary school VEX Robotics Competion division, Lone Wolf Robotics would return for their 3rd year at the World Championships, facing off against 585 of the top high school entries, narrowed down from the 6000 teams who began the season. Consisting of Korah students Tia Bariciak and Shail Giroux, they proved that they had come to compete.

In the 2-vs-2-team competitive team-play tournament, Lone Wolf showed solid ability and was instrumental in posting many of the tournaments highest scores of the day, faltering briefly in two matches when they drew weak alliance partners and scored their only losses of the tournament.

After finishing ranked 7th in their division, they drafted the 21st ranked team from New Hampshire as their partner. They entered the 16-alliance playoff round against the 10th seeded pair from Washington and Texas. When an opposing robot hit and entangled the Lone Wolf machine, damaging a motor wire, the alliance pair found themselves down early and had few chances to score during the match, leading them to be eliminated from the team-play playoffs.

Lone Wolf also competed in the Skills Challenges, proving to be a strong competitor. They posted a top-5 score in the driving portion of the challenge, but had some difficulty with the Programming Skills on the trick World field setup, finishing 19th overall. This was the highest result ever for a secondary level Sault team.

Lone Wolf was not finished with their accolades, as they wrapped up the day’s events by winning one of the major judging awards; their division’s AMAZE Award, recognizing their superior game-play, overall scoring ability and strong programming skills. This is the first-ever major award win for a local team at the World Championship and capped off an amazing season of local and provincial victories to bring home this well-deserved banner.

Team coach Mark Bariciak said, “I am very proud of what Tia and Shail accomplished this year. Despite being a small team, they worked extremely hard together, and proved that small teams from small towns are not to be underestimated. And Tia, as one of the very few female drivers in VRC, showed again that girls can compete and win in male dominated competitions.”

Both teams wished to express their thanks to some incredible support from local supporters, who made their efforts possible. Tenaris, PEO, OACETT, and ADSB continue to support the local competition programs and the qualifying events, graciously hosted by Sault College. The City of Sault Ste. Marie also added a new support program for local teams to compete at the National and World level. In addition, the incredible local response to both teams’ GoFundMe pages added much-needed assistance to help the teams cope with the thousands of dollars required to register for these events, and travel to Kentucky.