LF students prepare for first Robotics competition

A variety of interests bring good ideas to the table

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition – Ultimate Ascent has challenged high schools across the country to build a robot that can toss frisbees through designated targets.

Locally, Little Falls students are up for the challenge. This is the school’s first year entering the competition and the excitement is thick. Students meet regularly after school to work on the project, bringing a variety of interests and expertise to the table to create the winning robot.

For the first time, Little Falls students have entered the Ultimate Ascent competition to be held in Duluth March 7 - 9. The challenge is to build a robot which will throw frisbees through a variety of goals. The group consists of first row (from left): Gabe Ploof, Dallas Anderson, Jack Hott, Ethan Wester and Noah Nouis. Second row: Josh Weidenbach, Tylor Barker, Alexis Roy, Bailey Kedrowski, Tyler Athmann and Brennan Norwood. Back row: Adviser Mike Huck, Nick Koester, Franklin Marquette, Aaron Moller, Ridge Primus, Travis Bridges, Conor Swanson, adviser Andy Ward and Travis Okerman. Not available for the picture was Aaron Nilsen, Taylor Nelson, Ian Norwood and Seth Wester.

For the first time, Little Falls students have entered the Ultimate Ascent competition to be held in Duluth March 7 – 9. The challenge is to build a robot which will throw frisbees through a variety of goals. The group consists of first row (from left): Gabe Ploof, Dallas Anderson, Jack Hott, Ethan Wester and Noah Nouis. Second row: Josh Weidenbach, Tylor Barker, Alexis Roy, Bailey Kedrowski, Tyler Athmann and Brennan Norwood. Back row: Adviser Mike Huck, Nick Koester, Franklin Marquette, Aaron Moller, Ridge Primus, Travis Bridges, Conor Swanson, adviser Andy Ward and Travis Okerman. Not available for the picture was Aaron Nilsen, Taylor Nelson, Ian Norwood and Seth Wester.

One of the advisers, Andy Ward, said each school in the competition is allowed to spend up to $4,000 on the project and up to $400 on each component.

“We received a starter kit from the competition that consisted of the chassis, wheels, belts, motors and batteries,” Ward said. “The rest has been made by the students.”

The 24 students who have been working diligently on the project work with metals and woods to fabricate the necessary parts. They need to incorporate electronics, physics, computer programming and more into their design.

“We are all learning a lot through this project,” Ward said.

The challenge began Jan. 5, and the students must stop working on their robot at midnight, Tuesday, Feb. 19. The competition will be held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Thursday, March 7 – Saturday, March 9. Little Falls will be competing against about 100 other schools from the Midwest at the Lake Superior Regional event.

When the students arrive in Duluth, they will be able to view the competition and talk with other teams about what worked and what didn’t. There will be a lot of collaboration. Little Falls will also be looking to align themselves with two other teams.

Little Falls students discuss the sides of their robot and what materials would be best. They are front row (from left): Travis Bridges and Noah Nouis. Second row: Josh Weidenbach, Tyler Athmann and Jack Hott.

Little Falls students discuss the sides of their robot and what materials would be best. They are front row (from left): Travis Bridges and Noah Nouis. Second row: Josh Weidenbach, Tyler Athmann and Jack Hott.

Each of the Ultimate Ascent competitions is played by two teams, created by an alliance of three schools, one red and one blue. The arena is a flat, 27-foot by 54-foot field. There are six robots on the field at one time.

Collisions of both robots and frisbees is expected.

The robots compete to score as many frisbees into their goals as possible in a two-minute, 15-second match. There are several goals, some higher than others. The higher the goal scored, the greater the number of points accumulated by that alliance.

The match ends with robots attempting to climb pyramids and amass even more points.

The Little Falls robot holds four frisbees which are dispensed one at a time. When the four have been released, the robot needs to be refilled through a chute, by students who are standing by.

The robot is run remotely by the students with a joy stick. The frisbees are thrown by a wheel which spins 1,500 revolutions per minute.

“We are going to aim for the highest goal, the one with the most points,” said Ward.

FIRST’s mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, which inspire innovation and foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership.

This year, FIRST will see about 60,000 students competing in about 2,600 teams. Those teams represent every state plus Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Kingdom. There will be 58 regional competitions, such as the one in Duluth, plus others. Four hundred teams will qualify for the Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

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