Hundreds of high school students were at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Burnaby on Saturday for a competition.

The students are battling, in teams, in BCIT’s annual VEX Robotics Competition’s Mainland Championship for the chance to head to the world championships in Houston, Texas.

The goal of the competition is to expose high school students to more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) projects to build a “more diverse workforce” in B.C.

The competition saw 48 teams build a robot that can launch a “tribal” into goals. A triball is a cross between a tetrahedron and a sphere.

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A BCIT mechanical engineering faculty, Andrew Friesen, is a product of the competition. BCIT said it found that 95 per cent of VEX participants reported a significant increase in interest when it comes to STEM subject areas.

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Friesen’s passion for robotics began more than a decade ago when he founded his high school’s robotics team. He credits his interest in robotics to his computing teacher at Seaquam Secondary.

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“Since I was so far ahead in the computing class, I got to be alone in the back to explore with the VEX robotics kit, and eventually started a team and went to competitions,” Friesen said.

He now teaches in both the mechatronics and robotics, and mechanical engineering programs.

“I’ve joked that I’m doing my career in reverse, starting with teaching, and maybe going back into industry at some point,” he said.“Or I might just stay here at BCIT — I am really enjoying it.”

BCIT has hosted the annual VEX robotics competitions for more than 15 years, and is the only post-secondary institute in BC to regularly host a major robotics competition.

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