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Alberta Indigenous youth raise enough money to attend robotics competition in Dubai

An Alberta robotics team conducts a demonstration at Calgary's Telus Spark on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019.
An Alberta robotics team conducts a demonstration at Calgary's Telus Spark on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Global News

A group of Alberta students is heading to Dubai this week to represent Canada in an international robotics competition.

But this trip to the First Global Robotics Challenge from Oct. 24 to 27 almost didn’t happen for some.

READ MORE: Canadian Indigenous youth robotics team to compete in Dubai

Initially, there weren’t enough funds, so only four out of 10 members were able to travel.

Since a Global News story first aired and was published on Oct. 11, the donations began pouring in.

Organizers said $23,000 has been raised — $19,000 of that came in since the story.

Now all the members are cleared for takeoff; seven members can go and three have opted to stay home, organizers said.

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Quentin Norris, a Métis Cree student from Calgary, does a robotics demonstration with his team at Telus Spark on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019.
Quentin Norris, a Métis Cree student from Calgary, does a robotics demonstration with his team at Telus Spark on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

More than half the team is made up of Indigenous youth from Alberta, according to organizers. The teams called GearHeads and I’myanistsitapikoan are representing Canada in the competition.

Quentin Norris, 12, is a Métis Cree student from Calgary and a member of Team Canada.

“It’s just so awesome because a week ago I wasn’t going, and since the sponsorship and the money that everyone has donated, I’m now able to go,” he said at a practice session at Telus Spark in Calgary on Sunday.

“That means so much that everyone felt so passionate about this that they were willing to donate money to let everyone go on the trip.”

An Alberta robotics team conducts a demonstration at Calgary’s Telus Spark on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019.
An Alberta robotics team conducts a demonstration at Calgary’s Telus Spark on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Global News

Deanna Burgart is the president of IndigeSTEAM — a program that supports youth in science, technology, engineering, arts, architecture, agriculture and math — a Team Canada mentor and an engineer at the University of Calgary.

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“Seeing these kids on the way to Dubai is a dream come true for me,” she said.

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“I had the opportunity to grow up in Singapore as a young child and knew what that exposure did to open my eyes to the possibilities. So when I see these kids, some that didn’t think they were going to get to go until last week, so excited to go see this completely new world has been just overwhelming.”

READ MORE: ‘Grow my understanding’: Grade 9 girls explore STEM career options in Calgary

Burgart is appreciative of the donations that have come from near and far.

“I was amazed that some of our donors had never heard of us,” she said.

“They saw the news from Ontario and wanted to help. I was at an American Indian Science and Engineering Society conference in Milwaukee when we started getting donations in and I’m sitting in the conference crying with every new text I got.”