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VIDEO: Okotoks' Stratobots FIRST with their robot

Geoffrette comes through with a little help from friends

Geoffrette is somebody who can take orders and complete tasks.

Especially when the square robot is under the watch of some young Okotoks’ minds who helped create it and gave its marching orders.

Members of Stratobots, a team from FIRST Robotics Okotoks, won the FIRST Tech Challenge in Calgary on Feb. 1 by making sure the robot Geoffrette followed orders.

“When we started winning repeatedly, it was a really great feeling,” said Owen Plumb, a Grade 9 student at École Beausoleil. “Realizing that we were one of the top teams there and we weren’t necessarily the underdogs.”

The competition involved Geoffrette moving and stacking large Lego blocks. There is one 30-second round when Geoffrette moves autonomously for 30 seconds by being preprogrammed by the Stratobots and then two minutes of the 35-pound robot driven with a hand-held by a member of the team.

During each game, Stratobots works with another team — one may collect the blocks while the other stacks for example — in the spirit of “co-opetition.”

“We won all five of our games with the help of our alliance members,” Owen said. “Driving the robot during the competition is basically like pure freaking out, and then at the end, you snap out of it and realize that you won and there is a huge feeling of relief.”

Emma Cunningham, a fellow student at École Beausoleil, said there is no other feeling like operating Geoffrette.

“It’s crazy how you built this thing and you can make it move, you can knock over a tower of bricks, you can do pretty much anything with that one robot that you made,” Cunningham said. “It feels like relief that it works, but also awesome. Like winning a video game, it’s great. Amazing.”

Plumb said he goes into a zone driving Geoffrette.

“It feels really good having a robot that you spent so many hours on… doing exactly what you ask it to do,” Plumb said. “When you finally get that stack of three large blocks… it’s a feeling of relief you don’t get anywhere else.”

The Stratobots have made the jump from competing in the FIRST Lego League.

“We started off by looking at the challenge and seeing what we had to do,” Plumb said. “Because this is our first year (in the challenge) we decided to watch a ton of YouTube videos of other teams and figuring out what part we needed to use — and we ended up with this beautiful robot.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Geoffrette doesn’t look a lot like R2-D2 or the Jetsons’ maid Rosie.

They have been working on Geoffrette for the past five months.

“We have eight amazing Robotics teammates,” Plumb said. “We had a lot of onsite supports from different websites, but the whole building was us.”

The squad practices twice a week at the Plumbs’ garage — even when it was -30 below in January.

“We work on our robot, we program it, we modify components and the rest of the time is driving practice,” Plumb said. “That’s something a lot of teams miss, they focus on designing their robot… but they realize they don’t have any time to practice.  They end up with this amazing robot, but they can’t really do that because they can’t drive it around.”

Cunningham is fairly new to the group and she is enjoying it.

“A lot of it is learning to work with new technologies that most kids don’t get the experience with,” Cunningham said. “There is also a lot of building teamwork and building trust on your teammates — that they checked the wheel or that they programmed it properly.

“I really like the fact that we are all together and that we are learning.”

They learned a robot competition is a game of inches or several inches.

One of the rules is the robot must have a portion of it parked next to the wall from which it started.

The Stratobots had built a tape measure on Geoffrette which was released when time was running out — when the end of the tape hit the original spot, they had completed the parking task.

Stratobots will compete in the provincial championship in March. The winner at provincials will represent Alberta at the world championships in Houston in April.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international organization to introduce youth to STEM technology.

Okotoks First Robotics has eight Lego members and eight on the Stratobots.

For more information on Okotoks First Robotics go to

Bruce Campbell,





Bruce Campbell

About the Author: Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell is the editor for and the Western Wheel newspaper. He is a graduate of Mount Royal College journalism program, 1991. For story tips contact
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