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BlackBerry Teams Up with Carleton University to Support FIRST Robotics Competition in Ottawa

BlackBerry Teams Up with Carleton University to Support FIRST Robotics Competition in Ottawa

Today we’re excited to announce that we’ll be sponsoring Ottawa’s inaugural FIRST Robotics Competition, put on by Carleton University’s Faculty of Engineering and Design. Taking place from March 13 – 15, teams of high school students from across Ontario, along with their robots, will compete in an epic challenge that combines sport, science, and teamwork while providing real-world engineering experience.

With the competition set to get under way in less than a week, we caught up with Grant Bechthold, Strategic Program Manager, BlackBerry QNX, to learn more about how the company got involved, its role on-site and why the FIRST Robotics Competition represents the perfect forum to recruit the top tech talent that will help BlackBerry stay on the cutting edge of innovation.

Q. How did BlackBerry come to be involved with Carleton University to support the FIRST Robotics Competition?

BlackBerry has a longstanding commitment of engaging with postsecondary and secondary institutions in support of educational programs, school projects, women in engineering, and STEM-related activities. We have had a successful working relationship with Carleton on many projects and are currently partnering with them as part of their autonomous vehicle program. We are always looking for opportunities to influence and support STEM programs and this FIRST Robotics opportunity is unique as it is a ‘first’ locally in Ottawa with Carleton. We quite simply didn’t want to pass the opportunity up.

Q. What value do you see in sponsoring the competition?

BlackBerry has always sought to be on the look-out for ways it can give back to society outside of our normal day-to-day operations, and this event really resonated with us as at its core the competition is all about bringing people together to innovate and build solutions that solve problems – which is exactly what we at BlackBerry do every day.

In addition, we really wanted to partner with an organization that is dedicated to encouraging students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields as we know that these sorts of skills are only going to increase in importance in the years ahead. Of course, the recruitment angle cannot be discounted – the hundreds of high school students who will pack Carleton’s Ravens’ Nest (where the competition takes place) – represent the country’s next generation of innovators and we’re quite keen to get on their radar.

Q. What does the competition look like?

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is an international non-profit that encourages students to pursue interests in science and technology. FIRST Robotics Competitions typically attract upwards of 1,000 high school students, parents, volunteers, judges and mentors and give FIRST teams the chance to compete in a program that is “more than robots.” Under strict time limitations, students design and build 120-pound robots that compete on a playing field to complete various tasks. Students program and test their machines using skills in engineering, coding, and design. Teams also develop business and marketing plans, as well as outreach initiatives to fundraise and engage their local community.

Q. Do you plan to use the competition as a recruiting forum?

Yes. Particularly across Canada’s National Capital region, BlackBerry is constantly looking at new and innovative ways to attract and source top talent. The FIRST Robotics Competition represents an ideal forum to get on the radar of and ultimately recruit the best and brightest folks out there to help us further our work in AI, cybersecurity, and of the transformative automotive technologies that will quite literally drive our future. In Ottawa for instance, we have dozens of open roles that we’re currently hiring for ranging from Finance, HR, Software Development, Product Management, Autonomous Vehicle Development, Engineering, and more.

Q. What does the level of ‘sponsorship’ that you’ve provided get you?

As part of our sponsorship commitment, we’ll be recognized as the exclusive sponsor of the ‘Preparation Pit’ where teams practice and prep before their turn in the spotlight. We’ll also be making some remarks as part of the opening ceremony to help kick off the competition. On-site we will also be engaging with the various teams, encouraging and examining what the next generation of brilliant minds have produced.

Q. Any final thoughts?

This will be an amazing event to witness in terms of the thought processes of how young minds go about solving real world problems with a fixed amount of resources. Attendees will get to see first-hand the logic that is used to solve novel and complex tasks on the spot and witness the excitement and joy when these budding young innovators achieve their goals. A must-see event.

For more information about the event and to attend, please visit carleton.ca/firstrobotics

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