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Ottawa, ON - Team 2706: Merge Robotics, a local community-based robotics team made up of high school students, recently qualified as Finalists as part of their participation in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Game Design Challenge. FIRST is an international not-for-profit organization that aims to introduce Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to students from grades K-12 through competition. Merge Robotics usually builds four foot tall, 120 pound robots to compete in FIRST. However, the COVID-19 pandemic meant things look a little different this year - instead of playing the game, they had to design one. 

As part of FIRST’s efforts to create a season where teams could compete completely from home, they announced the Game Design Challenge. FRC teams were tasked with designing their own FRC game, a job typically reserved for the experts at FIRST headquarters. Merge Robotics members took on the challenge with gusto, creating Save Our Species, a game designed around the concept of travelling to a distant, dying plant to save the eggs of it’s endangered species from extinction. 

The team’s submission included a 3D model of the field and game pieces, as well as unique hand drawn artwork created by one of the team’s students. In this unique virtual challenge, Merge Robotics’ submission was initially pitted against 40 other international submissions, where they won the Concept Award, allowing them to move onto the next stage of judging. Here they were chosen as one of 20 Finalists out of 1328 initial submissions, being the only Canadian team to advance this far. 

The team credits one thing from their game design that has helped them stand out and make it this far - the unique egg-shaped game piece featured in their submission. “The egg-shaped game piece is super special, nothing that’s ever been done before in an FRC game” says Merge Robotics mentor, Nichole Hebert. “It would present a lot of challenges to teams when they are building a robot, it wouldn’t be as simple to manipulate as a ball or cube”. The judges agree, citing this element as their reason for winning at every stage. 

The team now has one more round of judging left, with the three winners set to be announced on June 26th on FIRST’s Twitch channel. Team members are excited and nervous. “It’s extremely nerve wracking, but at the same time it’s an exhilarating experience!” says Merge Robotics student, Nadia. 

However, the official judges aren’t the only people that get to pick a winner. The public has been invited to vote for their favourite submission. The game that receives the most votes from the public will be crowned the “Community Choice” winner. As Canada’s only advancing Finalist team, Team 2706: Merge Robotics would appreciate having our community rally behind us in voting for our team’s submission. All 20 Finalist submissions can be viewed and voted on at: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/awards/2021-game-design-challenge-finalists.

About Merge Robotics

Merge Robotics is a community-based FIRST Robotics Competition team. Founded in 2015, The team is currently made up of 35 dedicated high school students from across Ottawa.

The 16 volunteer mentors, who are scientists, engineers, technology and business professionals, share their expertise with the students. 

Every year, the team is tasked with building a 120 pound robot to compete in a game alongside other FRC teams. Different sub teams of students and mentors work together to design and fabricate, wire, and program a competition ready robot in 6 weeks. Students also prepare presentations for judges, write essays and create videos for awards, and acquire sponsorships. 

Throughout the year, the team regularly participates in community outreach, providing hands-on STEM activities to Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, holding workshops at the Ottawa Public Library, and mentoring robotics teams for younger students. 

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the team adapted, shifting to virtual meetings and still being able to participate in FIRST challenges that involved programming for autonomous and game design, preparing presentations for judges, and leading virtual outreach events.

Merge Robotics works out of community-donated space and is supported by generous sponsors. 

You can learn more about Merge Robotics on their website https://www.team2706.ca/. You can connect with them on Instagram @mergerobotics2706 and Twitter @frc2706. If you would like to donate to help the team, Sponsorships | Ottawa West Community Robotics (team2706.ca)

About FIRST Robotics and FRC 

Founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a global organization dedicated to getting young people excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The most popular league, the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), has high-school aged students partner with teachers, industry, and business leaders to create a competition-ready robot in just six weeks. This year’s FRC competition was altered so that teams could still virtually participate in FIRST from the safety of their homes.