Media image

Press Releases


MONTREAL, JANUARY 26, 2018 – Concordia University student Synneva Furuli caught the engineering bug in the robotics program at Merton Elementary School and hasn’t looked back since.

Furuli and teammate Kevin Battista,  a graduate of Vincent Massey Collegiate in St. Michel,  showcased the Concordia Engineering Department’s Baja off-road racing vehicle, prepared for the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competitions, at the English Montreal School Board’s press conference on January 26 promoting robotics, coding and artificial intelligence.

Furuli loved building things together as a child. While playing with Lego robotics pieces at Merton, she developed her interest in how things fit together. “I knew back then that I wanted to study engineering,” says Furuli, now a third year Mechanical Engineering students at Concordia.   

In 2006, Furuli took part in the International Robocup competition in Germany. After graduating from Merton in 2007, she attended Royal West Academy and then completed Dawson College’s mechanical technology program.

Furuli is one of the only women on Concordia’s Baja off-road vehicle team. She participates in the programming and the mechanical building of their vehicle. “The Baja is an extension of what I did at Merton, just bigger,” she says.  “Back then, I was on the design team, working on the mechanics of building something that would be solid and not fall apart.”

This year, Furuli and her teammates will participate in SAE competitions in Quebec City and Kansas City. The team’s goal is to optimize the mechanics of the vehicle so that it can withstand physical hits and rollovers, is lightweight and can stand up to the harsh conditions of off-road terrain.

Furuli attributes her ability to work on this team to her early training. “My Merton team gave me the skills needed to work closely with my teammates,” she says, seeing great potential in the field of robotics, coding and artificial intelligence. “I combine mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. Even if you specialize in one aspect, most people that go into this field go on to get good jobs and can cross-over disciplines in their work.”

Battista attended Gerald McShane Elementary School in Montreal North prior to Vincent Massey Collegiate. Now in his third year of computer engineering, he chose to attend Concordia specifically for the hands-on experience that he would receive while working on this team.

Battista’s interest for coding and computer science was sparked at Vincent Massey. “I was part of a volunteer team of students that worked on the website and portal of the school,” he said. “I found the methodical approach and learn a new language to be very interesting.”

Currently the technical coordinator for Concordia’s Baja team, Battista makes sure everyone is on track with deadlines, offers guidance, and is involved with manufacturing details. “This kind of project puts our work into a tangible context.,” he says. “It is an excellent practical experience that gives us a great look into the industry.”

Furuli’s younger sister Erika is currently a Merton student participating in the school’s robotics program. She is the team captain of the “Soccer Team” that will participate in the RoboCupJunior Competition at Rosemount High School. According to Debbie Adams, Science and Technology teacher at Merton, the school will bring three teams to this year’s competition: Soccer, Search and Rescue, as well as Triathlon. Erika is also working in class on a second project with two other students using a variety of robotics and electronics, such as e-textiles.

The Furuli sisters’ mother Libby Cohen says their family has been with Merton since 2000. “We love Merton,” she maintains. “It’s a gem of a school.”

Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213