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May 27, 2004

Electrical glitches nix hopes of 3 deaf teens

From: Winnipeg Sun - Winnipeg,Manitoba,Canada - May 27, 2004

At provincial robotics event


Being deaf wasn't enough to stop them, it was those darn blown fuses. A string of electrical problems derailed the hopes of three deaf teenagers participating in a provincial robotics competition yesterday.

"I'm getting pretty good at changing the fuses on this robot," a laughing Jon Anderson, 14, said through an interpreter.

Anderson, a Grade 9 student, and two of his Manitoba School for the Deaf schoolmates used sign language to communicate with each other as they put their homemade robot to the test yesterday at the seventh annual Skills Manitoba Competition at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

Teammates Bryan Remillard, 18, and Kayla Kopys, 14, said their method of communication didn't put their team at a disadvantage during the contest, even though their opponents were able to cheer and give directions verbally to each other.

"It can be a little bit harder (for us) but we know each other and watch each other," said Remillard, a Grade 12 student.

"Deafness is not a disability and this proves it," said Ian Elwood-Oates, the team's industrial arts teacher. "I'm very proud of them."

Operators had only a few minutes to manoeuvre their robots around a gravel pit, pick up and carry different objects to a designated spot.

It took the deaf teenagers about a month to build the robot, which includes parts from an electric wheelchair and a car.

About 400 young Manitobans competed yesterday in 42 trade and technology career contests in a variety of fields including carpentry and hairstyling.

The winners of each competition will represent Manitoba at the Canadian Skills Competition, which kicks off tomorrow at the convention centre and runs until Saturday afternoon.


The two-day event runs each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free to the public.

It's the first time the national contest, organized by Skills Canada, has been held in Winnipeg. The competition is the not-for-profit organization's attempt to attract more young Canadians to careers in skilled trades and technology.

At a luncheon yesterday, Advanced Education and Training Minister Diane McGifford said the need for skilled tradespeople will continue to increase during the next two decades.

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