W.A.F.F.L.E.S. Community Robotics, FIRST Robotics Competition Team 4476 was one of two Ontario teams to be recognized with the Provincial Chairman’s Award on Saturday, May 15, 2021, at the FIRST Canada awards gala.
The Chairman’s Award “honours the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the mission of FIRST,” according to firstinspires.org, and is dubbed as the most prestigious award in the FIRST community. The award was created to keep the central focus of FIRST Robotics competition on the goal of transforming the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honour for science and technology, as well as encouraging more youths to become science and technology leaders, according to a release from W.A.F.F.L.E.S. Robotics.
W.A.F.F.L.E.S., which stands for Wild About Family & Friends Learning Engineering & Science, is a community based robotics team in Kingston with students from 11 different schools from grades 7 through 12. Judges praised the W.A.F.F.L.E.S. for their community involvement, including dedication to making STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) accessible to all through free online tutorials and workshops for ages 4 to 18, according to the release. They also commended the team’s commitment to promoting wellness, including through Personal Hygiene Drives for the Kingston Community Health Centre and a partnership with the local Canadian Blood Services branch.
Team Captain, Benjamin V., says the thing he’s the most proud of is not the award itself, but the people they’ve introduced to FIRST along the way. “Being homeschooled makes it a challenge to find friends, especially as I recently moved to Kingston from Newfoundland and didn’t know anyone here. Joining W.A.F.F.L.E.S. has been an opportunity for me to find a family, and that’s just the beginning – as a team, our mission is to make sure anyone who wants to be involved in STEM can be, no barriers faced.”
Avalon G., a grade 12 student at Holy Cross, joined the team in December 2020. She says that “Even as a first-year student, I have had so many opportunities since joining the team. I have run programming workshops and made tutorials for kids aged 6-10, I’ve been part of our partnership with Canadian Blood Services, and mentored several FIRST LEGO League teams. W.A.F.F.L.E.S. has helped me grow in ways I could have never expected.”
This is the team’s second time winning this award at the Provincial level, and they will now go on to compete for the award at the Virtual World Championships later this summer, according to the release. This means in their 8 years of competition, they have now qualified for World Championships 6 times, a remarkable achievement.
The W.A.F.F.L.E.S. pride themselves on having a diverse student group from schools across the Kingston community, and have programs for youth aged 4-18. To learn more about getting involved, email [email protected] or visit their website at wafflesrobotics.com.