Robotics program started for junior high students

Aliah Williams, Peighton Koeppen, Grace Lundgren, Samantha McPherson, Kaitlyn Wright and Emerson Peaslee with their robot.  Photo supplied

Aliah Williams, Peighton Koeppen, Grace Lundgren, Samantha McPherson, Kaitlyn Wright and Emerson Peaslee with their robot.
Photo supplied

Last September, after receiving grant money from Lakes State Credit Union and North Branch Technology Department, North Branch was able to start three FIRST Tech Challenge teams.

“After five very successful years with our North Branch-Chisago Lakes Team 3038 robotics team, it only seemed logical that we would get something started for our 7th and 8th grade students as a feeder program for our high school group,” said Becky Leuer, team leader for all of the robotics teams.

The teams formed in September and got started building a robot to compete in the game “Block Party” in early October. North Branch has two teams of boys and one all-girls team. Each team participated in a different competition with Team 7288 competing in December and early January, Team 7289 in early January, and the girls team, 7290, last Saturday, Jan. 25.

“We really didn’t know what to expect at the competitions since it was our first year; so each time a team competed we passed along what we learned to the next two teams,” Leuer said.

This helped each team be more competitive in the game. Team 7288 got an opportunity to compete a second time when a team dropped out and advanced to the semi-final round.

Competition day begins with an interview where the team answers questions from two judges about their team, the robot, and the build and design process. Following the interview, the robot must pass a hardware and software inspection and then the competition begins. Teams are randomly paired up and compete as an alliance against two other robots. On Saturday, Team 7290 came out strong by winning their first qualifier, 185-129, and went on to post a 4-2 record and finish 8th out of 24 teams. The top four teams drafted alliance partners for the finals, and North Branch 7290 was picked by the No. 2 team. After winning their semi-final match, they advanced to the finals where they lost and finished second for the day.

North Branch Team 7290 was selected to be one of the teams to advance to the State FTC Championships Feb. 22 in Prior Lake. A total of 24 teams are selected to advance to the state meet. Minnesota has 72 FTC teams.

“The team is very excited to get another opportunity to compete and is busy improving their robot to be even more competitive,” Leuer said.

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