Robotics and the Brains Behind Them at the DECC

Multi-State High School Competition Brings Out the Best

If you’ve ever wondered who all the smart people are who design the machines around us…they are at the DECC for the next two days.

One hundred and twenty teams have gathered for an electronic gladiator competition of sorts. It is called the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition and it is part of an international program involving high school students. This year they had to come up with a robot that could not only pick up a set of objects, but carry them across an open space, and stack them at different levels on the other side.  Another layer of challenge is that part of it needs be done autonomously–with no human operating.  Early in the day, the Centurions team from Circle Pines, Minnesota had the mechanical parts figured out, but they wanted to be sure they overcame any bugs and make sure they were prepared.

“What we need to do is, we need to get all our programming kinks worked out, because we still haven’t tested our autonomous,” said Centurions team president, Max Imus. “We tested it before when this thing was barely built, and didn’t have an arm on it. But a lot has changed. We need to test that. And then we also want to get driver practice, because it’s very important for them to know how to control it,” said Imus.

Thursday was all about those tune-ups and practice. Friday the actual competition begins. But teams work in groups of three, and learning cooperation is just one of the many life skills that students learn through the program. But there is no getting around the brainpower and thinking that goes into it.

“So this year when the team got their challenge about six weeks ago, they were told, okay, this year you’re going to lift cones, and you’re going to need to place blocks. And they need to be placed on this array,” said Nicole Schossow, Regional Director for Minnesota, and North and South Dakota.

“Other than that, they don’t tell you how it needs to happen, and in what way. So, every single robot that we have here is just a little bit different. They each have their own method to their madness that they have figured out, and what they’re going to work on and focus on for their build team. So, it really is very imaginative and creative,” said Schossow.

If you would like to catch the action, be prepared for more noise and hoopla than a hockey game. There is no admission charge, and you can watch and roam around the event both Friday and Saturday at the DECC.


Categories: Community, Education, Features, Minnesota