Employee Volunteers provide their expertise at Ottawa Robotics Competition

When Lockheed Martin Canada employees were invited to participate at Ottawa’s second annual VEX EDR Robotics Competition earlier this year - the local STEM Council quickly stepped forward. Lockheed Martin Canada’s STEM Council spans the country, with members and volunteers at each site dedicated to encouraging interest in STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - among local youth.

The VEX Competitions are presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation. For each competition, teams of students are tasked with designing and building a robot to compete in a game-based engineering challenge. Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test on the playing field as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communications, and more.

Lockheed Martin Canada employees Claire Picken, Roger Hildesheim, Michael Sepa, Dave Gerwing, and Jacob Barton all volunteered their time for a few training sessions leading up to the big event, followed by a full day of intense judging.

The students in the competition ranged between ages of nine and 15. They cooperatively planned, built and operated their own robots in the competition.  “Each creation was unique,” said Michael Sepa. “It was fascinating to find out how individual teams decided on their approach and how they worked around all the problems they encountered during construction.”

 “It was amazing to speak with team members between the multiple rounds of the competition and have them describe repairs and modifications they were performing on their machines,” adds Roger Hildesheim.  “There was an electric atmosphere in the school that day!”

Asked about her most memorable moment from the competition,Claire Picken shared a special story. “One of the teams we gave a Judges’ Award to was an all-girls team. All except one of the students on this team were 11 and under --  their programmer/software developer was just 10 years old! The nine year old on the team was officially too young to be part of the competition so they made her the team mascot.”  

The caliber of students competing at the event impressed the Lockheed Martin Canada employees. They admired how well every individual team member could explain the workings of their robot. Dave Gerwing commented that their insights included aspects he would only expect a senior controls or automation engineer to understand.

When asked about their motivation in volunteering, Jacob Barton spoke for the group. “I volunteered as a judge because I think that, as technical professionals, we should be giving back to the community and encouraging a new generation of engineers and scientists. I think it’s great that programs like VEX and others exists to give kids with an interest in science and engineering a fun outlet to experiment. I was just happy to be a part of it!”

Above, Michael Sepa learning about a student’s approach to building his team’s robot.