Entrepreneurship has no age restrictions. You can find founders of every age across Waterloo Region, whether they’re studying at the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University or Conestoga College or are older founders with years of experience starting something new. Even high school students are pushing the boundaries of what you can do with robotics.

Communitech recently had the opportunity to support a group of future founders on the First Robotics team at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge. The Communitech IT team donated computer and networking hardware to help the students compete in competitions.

The equipment will help with their robotics team and the robotics course offered at St. Benedict. The course and team are run by Abel Chaves, a science and math teacher at the school. The innovative robotics course gives students the chance to learn about the basics of robotics, including programming and computer-aided design (CAD).

“The equipment is going to help the students use the 3D CAD software. With these donated computers, they’ll have computers that can speed up the process,” Chaves said.

Eric Bencina, VP, Data Strategy, IT, and Operations at Communitech, said the donation of hardware aligns with the core of Communitech’s True North Strategy: supporting founders at any stage. 

“In the school system, especially at the elementary and high school level, budgets are very lean. The challenge is equipping the students and these teachers who are really passionate about the subject areas to have the tools to keep that spark lit,” Bencina said.

Being able to model the robots and their parts digitally is just part of what students at St. Benedict’s can do. The school has 3D printers and manufacturing facilities and classes to turn robot dreams into robot reality.

“We can 3D print parts or we can send the plans over to our manufacturing class and they can produce it out of metal, plastic or wood – whatever we need to. It combines our manufacturing, programmers, design, electronics and robotics courses,” Chaves said.

The opportunity to put learning into practice can open his students’ eyes to what they can do in university or college and beyond, he added.

“We’ve had a lot of students who joined the club or took the courses who then pursued engineering programs after graduating. It’s something many hadn’t even thought about,” Chaves said.

Learning about design, programming and fabrication in high school also gives students a head start in post-secondary education. 

“I’ve talked to a lot of past students and they’re already ahead of the game when they get to university or college. They can already model or create a lot of different things,” Chaves said. 

The opportunity to support the program at St. Benedict’s also aligns with the Tech For Good movement. Equipping future robotics engineers with the tools they need is part of the larger conversation focused on putting ethics and humanity into what tech companies build.  

“These students are the potential founders of tomorrow. They tend to be some of the most brilliant minds and solve some of the most difficult problems. Whatever we can do to help them stretch their budget with quality hardware that’s reached the end of its useful life for us is something that we’re really happy to do,” Bencina said.

If your company has gently used hardware and you’d like to support a First Robotics program in Waterloo Region, visit Waterloo Wellington First Robotics to learn more.