A lot has changed since the Kinetic Knights Robotics Team 781 was formed 15 years ago.
A FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition team, it began in 2001 with Bruce Power staff mentoring Kincardine District Secondary School students.
Among those students, were Alistair Gould, now of Mississauga, and Matt Bacon of Kincardine.
"We had a lot of fun back then," said Gould.
"We worked hard, built the robot and went to regionals," said Bacon, "and then on to the world championships in Florida. We wore lab coats and had a bagpiper, Matt Pym, play as we entered. It was very much a Kincardine team."
'Thanks to the mentors, sponsors and members for keeping the team alive," added Gould. "I hope you have more responsible fun than we did!"
David Yun, also an alumnus of Team 781, welcomed about 40 people to a celebration of the team's 15th season, Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Lake Huron Learning Centre in Kincardine.
"This is our first-ever reunion, marking our 15th season," he said. "In 2004, the Kinetic Knights began working toward winning the chairman's award and sustaining the team for future members. Now, we remember the things we loved about FIRST and the Kinetic Knights."
Safety advisors Dave Trumble of Kincardine and Mario Guindon of Wiarton, recall the early years before there was a safety standard in place. "We put together the safety program that is now used by FIRST worldwide," said Trumble.
"It's important to talk to the team members about safety," he said. "Team 781 aims so high that it is recognized every year for safety."
He said for the Kinetic Knights, safety is an ingrained thing. "We had an incident when a mentor from another team wanted to use a piece of our equipment and was going to alter it without unplugging it first. A Team 781 member reached over and unplugged the machine automatically. We enforce doing the work safely."
Woodie Flowers mentor's award winner Bill Jackson has been a Team 781 mentor for more than 10 years. "As a leader, most of what we do is unseen but it impacts people's lives. Thanks goes to Bruce Power which has been a long-time sponsor and supporter of the Kinetic Knights."
Andrew Poulsen, a Team 781 alumnus, was part of the team in 2006, 2007 and 2008 when the Kinetic Knights chose green as their T-shirt colour. When the team set up in the old W.E. Thompson Public School gymnasium, there was finally space to build a field and practise the challenge, he said. "After that, we always had a field. Then, we got use of the Lake Huron Learning Centre and the team has lots of room to store equipment and practise the game."
He added that one of the most positive changes for the team occurred when Pat O'Cain became a full-time mentor. "My hats off to the volunteers, the parents and the team."
Mickey Collins, a former Kinetic Knight, was part of the team that won the first chairman's award in 2013.
"That was so exciting. I was honoured to tell our story to the judges," she said. "Then we won again in 2014, followed by the engineering spirit award this year. Being a part of this team was a great experience, and it must have been the same for other team members over the years to draw this many people back for a celebration. Here's to Team 781's continued success and long-term sustainability."