Lassonde to co-host FIRST Robotics Competition

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Lassonde is proud to support and co-host the FIRST Robotics Competition March 23 to 25, 2018, when more than 30 robotics teams from Ontario high schools will compete and showcase their teamwork, creativity, and technical abilities.

The event will take place at the Tait McKenzie Centre at York University.


The competition will hold participants to strict time limitations, as students compete to design and build 120-pound robots that will compete on a playing field to complete tasks. Students will program and test their machines using skills in engineering, coding, and design.

The event is co-sponsored by Lassonde 50:50 challenge and BEST Lab at Lassonde. The competition at Lassonde marks the first time at a FIRST Robotics Competition that the combination of students, judges, volunteers, and staff are 50% female.

“We’re excited to bring young students across Ontario to learn how they can use science and engineering to change the world,” said Lassonde Dean Richard Hornsey. “At Lassonde, our students learn by doing, and it’s this creative ethos that we are delighted to support in FIRST Robotics Competitions.”

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international non-profit organization designed to inspire students to pursue further studies and careers in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.

Learn more about the event.

Use hashtags #PowerUp and #GenderEquality to follow the event and cheer on participants.

Countdown with us to the many firsts at the Lassonde School of Engineering:

First engineering school in Canada to launch a challenge to achieve a 50:50 gender balance

The first time Lassonde hosts a FIRST Robotics competition

The first gender-balanced FIRST Robotics competition in Canada

Read the stories below of two amazing and accomplished women who found their love of science and engineering through robotics.

10 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

Meet one of our agents of change: Sogand Talebi—a space engineering student who immigrated to Canada at age 13. Bullied for her foreign accent and aptitude for mathematics, she found comfort in robotics. Having made a friend in one of her teachers, Sogand helped him build a robotic arm. He then introduced her to the world of FIRST, and the following year, Sogand entered her first robotics competition. Follow us over the next 9 days to see how FIRST shaped Sogand's life.

9 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

Meet our second agent of change: Jasmine Klassen – a York University student. Jasmine was never interested in robotics, she thought that was "stuff for geeks". But that changed because of her friend who was also her neighbour. They walked to and from school daily, and while Jasmine waited for him after school to finish up with the robotics team, she decided to just sign-up as well. She ended up loving it and participated in a FIRST competition in 2013. Jasmine continues to pursue her love of robotics to this day as a mentor and a volunteer. Follow us over the next 8 days to see how FIRST shaped Jasmine's life.

8 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

Remember Sogand? Our agent of change that found FIRST by helping a teacher build a robotic arm? Well, during her first-ever competition in 2012, she joined a rookie team that was also just starting out that year. Figuring out the parameters of the competition as they went along, Sogand’s team still managed to pull together and succeed, winning two gold medals. Sogand remembers holding them up, a huge smile on her face, thinking “this is happiness”. Continue to follow us over the next 7 days to see what else Sogand gained from competing in FIRST.

7 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

Having accidentally stumbled into her love of robotics, Jasmine found her way into a legacy team: 1114 Simbotics. Having been around for years, they carry a high standard. Her team had won the World Championship Chairman’s Award; the most prestigious recognition within FIRST that celebrates a team’s well-rounded skill set. While this may seem intimidating to some, Jasmine used her team’s standards to push her to do better. She was inspired by their efforts and sought to carry on the legacy with her contributions. Continue to follow us over the next 6 days to see how the pressures and exceptional expectations influenced Jasmine’s FIRST experiences. 

6 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

Beyond medals and awards, FIRST gives its participants an environment of compassion, community and cooperation. Sogand tells us about the healthy competitiveness that exists within FIRST. She jokes that “if you don’t have a robot, another team will build you one”—a real-life occurrence according to Jasmine (tune in to tomorrow’s countdown story to hear more). From a young age, FIRST teaches kids to break stereotypes and boundaries by encouraging anyone and everyone to participate. As a mentor, Sogand has noticed that kids who are normally shy and quiet tend to come out of their shell. Continue to follow us over the next 5 days to see how FIRST changes a young mind’s perspective.

days until FIRST Robotics Competition

More than just an engineering competition FIRST teaches kids to be well-rounded individuals. By taking on administrative and leadership roles within their teams, students develop problem-solving, teamwork and effective communication skills. Jasmine has seen first-hand how the fast-paced and challenging circumstances of competition creates innovative leaders. She remembers the time when another team’s truck was stolen, with all of their supplies on it. Her team stepped in to help by mass-producing bumpers so that the other team would still have a chance to compete. Continue to follow us over the next 4 days to see some of the challenges within FIRST that have helped to foster such strong individuals.


4 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

It is no surprise that, with the gender imbalance in engineering and science, Sogand found that “many times [she] was the only girl on [her] team”. At the time, she felt proud of this fact because it made her feel special—she was doing something exceptional and this made her different from other girls. Looking back now, she recognizes that for some girls, the feeling that you are different might instead keep them away. Sogand now uses her role as a mentor to reach girls at a young age, before they reach high school when it is harder to get girls to actively participate for fear of not fitting in. Continue to follow us over the next 3 days to see how gender disparity has affected young engineers. 

3 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

Like Sogand, Jasmine faced gender inequities. When Jasmine was competing, she was the only girl in the pit-crew. This led to her being ignored, an example of microaggressive behaviour. Jasmine noticed that people assumed she wouldn’t have the answer, so they didn’t ask her about things that only she would know as the administrator for her team. Instead, people would go to her male teammates for answers, even if they were directed to ask her. Jasmine still notices these microaggressions still carry on, which is why it is so important to have gender-balanced teams. Continue to follow us over the next 2 days to see how a gender-balanced robotics competition aims to elude such experiences. 

2 days until FIRST Robotics Competition

Anyone that’s met Sogand knows she is not a shy individual. However, at times she found that “if [she] wasn’t as confident in [some]thing, [she] wouldn’t speak about it as a guy would”—a behaviour termed impostor syndrome. Sogand has noticed this as well in young girls while mentoring them. She finds that girls often are more shy then boys and therefore need to be encouraged more to excel. Research has shown that in an environment with more female role models and colleagues, women and girls tend to perform better. As such, FIRST at Lassonde seeks to Power Up Gender Equality by being the first gender balanced robotics competition in Canada. With only 1 day left, tune in to our final story to see how FIRST benefits not just its competitors, but its mentors as well. 

1 day until FIRST Robotics Competition

As much as she enjoys the thrills of competing, Jasmine says that her favourite part of FIRST is mentoring. She met all her closest friends through volunteering for FIRST and has slowly made her way up the organization’s ranks. Starting out by queueing, she now referees and is part of the planning committee. Neither competing, nor volunteering are an easy task. They require countless hours, a lot of junk food, and crazy-good organizational skills. When asked how she manages to make time for robotics, Jasmine said that “it’s not that we make time, it’s that we schedule our lives around it. Every step you take is done with FIRST deadlines in mind.” Now that’s dedication. 



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