A North Delta girl is among a group of Lower Mainland teens preparing to represent Canada at an Olympics-style international robotics competition next month.
Lulu Golland, 17, of North Delta; Emmy Hylton, 14, of Vancouver; Avneet Batra, 16, of Surrey; Allen Zhou, 17, of Port Moody; and Kieran Paranjpe, 16, of Vancouver all compete on different robotics teams throughout the region, but were picked to make up the “all-star” Team Canada heading to in Geneva, Switzerland Oct. 13-16 for the sixth edition of the FIRST Global Challenge.
The challenge takes place in a different country each year, though the last two were held virtually as international travel was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s return to in-person competition is also the team members’ first time experiencing such a big contest.
“It’s a little surreal,” Golland said. “It’s going to be more than 100 other teams from different countries, and we’re going to get to not only compete with them but also make connections.”
The competition is meant to inspire leadership and innovation in youth from across the world through education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“What FIRST Global is trying to do is to say to all of these kids who are imagining fantastic solutions and a better world, ‘You bring your imagination, enthusiasm, and vision of the future to the table, and we’ll bring the tools to make it a reality,’” said FIRST Global founder Dean Kamen.
Throughout the competition, teams work together to complete tasks surrounding this year’s theme: carbon capture.
Although the challenge is treated as a competition, teams work together to complete tasks as they all strive to solve some of the world’s biggest problems – this year’s theme is carbon capture.
“Even though you’re competing with other teams, you don’t want to bring them down, you still want to help them out,” Golland said.
As its members see it, Team Canada’s edge heading into the competition is its diversity.
“Something that’s really unique about our team is that we’ve sort of got a whole bunch of different perspectives on everything,” Paranjpe said. “It’s really representative of [Greater] Vancouver.”
The whole experience is student-led, with the team members responsible for fundraising the trip themselves – no small task given their $15,000 goal.
The team ran summer camps teaching younger kids to create and program Lego robots and is doing Krispy Kream fundraisers, and they have a GoFundMe set up to accept donations of any amount. More info is available on the team’s website (firstglobalteam.ca/about-1).
Although they haven’t known each other for long, the former competitors turned teammates have started to click.
“Even meeting some of these people for the first time, we’ve just had so much fun already,” Golland said.