Busy working on the project are (left to right) advisor Justin Buysse, Caleb Sterzinger, Jaymes Moon busy working and Nate Ludwikowski. The robot they’re constructing.

Robot builders getting their machine online

Eighteen Minneota students have been working hard for the past six weeks to produce the assigned Robotic project that they will compete with at the 2019 Northern Lights Regional March 6-8 in Duluth. Each year, the FIRST Robotics competition involves a new theme.

This year's assigned project theme is Destination: Deep Space and will be held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC).

FIRST Robotics, now in its 30th year, combines the excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology. Robotic teams receive a kit at their school which contains some of the pieces that need to be included in the challenge.

“We received the kit of parts on Jan. 5 and had from then until Feb. 19 to build the robot,” said Darren Clausen, now in his seventh year as coach.

Justin Buysse is a first-year assistant coach. Jeff Van Keulen has been contributing as a community volunteer for several years. The teams involved in this year's competition must build their robots to perform specific maneuvers and tasks that will earn the alliance various points.

For this year's “Destination: Deep Space” theme, two alliances, or teams, of deep space travelers race to place hatch panels on their rockets and cargo ship, load valuable cargo for transport off the planet, and return to the safety of their habitat; all before the next sandstorm hits.

Each alliance has two rockets, one cargo ship, and a habitat. Hatch panels and cargo are available through the player's stations.

Cargo is also available adjacent to their habitats.

Robots start in their habitat and may be pre-loaded with one game-piece.

Alliance may also choose to pre-load some bays of their cargo ship with either hatch panels or cargo.

During the first 15 seconds of each match, the student assigned to be the driver has his/her vision blocked by a sandstorm. Instead, robots must be controlled by using either an autonomous code or manually with a vision system on the robot.

Alliances earn points for exiting the habitat, securing hatch panels, and any cargo that is properly stored. As the sandstorm ends, driver vision returns and alliances continue to earn points by loading their spacecraft.

Near the end of each match, robots returning to the habitat earn additional points.

Alliances with the most points, wins the match.

“We believe that we will do relatively well in the competition,” said Trevor Belaen, a senior who has been a member of the Robotics team for four years.

“And we are excited for the competition and the chance to show off our robot this year.” Naturally, problems occur when building a sophisticated robot that must perform specific tasks.

But the problems with the Minneota team have occurred outside the building zone inside the school. “The biggest problem we have faced this year has been the weather,” Clausen said.

“The six-week build period is always busy and chaotic.” However, this year has been especially difficult having lost so many build days due to poor weather.

All totaled, we lost almost 25 percent of our build season this year.” Belaen echoed his coach’s comments about the weather being the team’s biggest foe so far.

“The largest problem that we had this year was really just getting around the weather and losing tons of time in being unable to work with the horrible winter weather,” he said.

The members of this year's Minneota Robotics team are: Seniors – Trevor Belaen, Jasmine Clark, Ty Lipinski, Nate Ludwikowski, Ashlynn Monnet, Jaymes Moon, Zach Van Keulen, Ryan Vlaminck. Juniors – Nolan Genzler, Mackenzie Viertstraete. Sophomores – Tony DeSmet, Reid Fier, McKenzie Monnet, Logan Schuelke, Caleb Sterzinger. Freshmen – Thomas Belaen, Elizabeth DeSmet, Emma Lipinski.

Trevor Belaen working on the robot.

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