Sponsors and benefits

Petrecca, managing director and president of Industrial Encoder of St. Catharines, learned about FIRST Robotics seven years ago when a nephew on the Simbotics team came to him for a new encoder. His firm makes the electro-mechanical devices used by the Simbotics team to control a robot’s speed and manipulate its arms. Petrecca donates the devices and also makes a financial contribution to the team.

“I do it because I believe in the cause,” he says. “This program helps bring more bright people into engineering and technology. We have enough lawyers and accountants; we need people who can actually do the work and think through problems.”

Adds Petrecca: “The kids may not appreciate the value of this program until they reach university or enter the workplace, but they are being exposed to so much of the real world in terms of managing tasks, developing strategies, using industrial tools, learning about teamwork and deadlines. And in the end, all this helps build their confidence.”


The Blizzard, like all the robotics teams, depends on the generosity of mentors as well as sponsors. These include teachers, engineers, former students and anyone who has the time and inclination to help. One of the Blizzard’s key mentors is retired chemistry teacher Roland Anderson, whose advice to all teams is: “Get someone like me - retired with a car and time to drive. It’s a valuable asset.” Anderson says he logged 3,000 kilometres this year looking for and picking up vital parts.

At Simbotics, a key mentor is former team member Geoff Allan, who graduated from Governor Simcoe SS in 2003 and has been helping out ever since.

Mentorship is a long-standing FIRST tradition. All the veteran schools do it. At the Ontario regionals, the Mexican entry is mentored by Simbotics. The mentoring takes place by Skype and e-mail. Simbotics also helped establish and mentors a team in Germany.

Potential corporate sponsors call Mark Breadner, looking for teams they can support. He works with them to find an appropriate local school. “It used to be that my phone only made outgoing calls,” Breadner says. “Now, it’s half and half.”