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Duluth-area students learn about robotics challenge

Anna Karas leads a discussion Saturday as the Duluth East Daredevils FIRST Robotics team learns the rules and brainstorms ideas for the 2013 challenge, called "Ultimate Ascent." (Photo by Molly Payette, courtesy of Duluth East Daredevils)

High school students from across the region are brainstorming ideas for disc-golf-playing robots this week after learning that's the challenge for the annual FIRST Robotics competition.

Eighteen high school teams totaling more than 300 people gathered at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Saturday for the kickoff of the competition. While there, participants watched a video feed -- broadcast live around the world -- that unveiled the 2013 game. The challenge, called "Ultimate Ascent," will require robots to propel flying discs into distant slots, then attempt to scale a pyramid.

Saturday's event, hosted by UMD and the Duluth East Daredevils team, drew participants from across the region. Local schools represented at UMD on Saturday included Duluth East, Duluth Denfeld, Marshall School, Two Harbors and Lakeview Christian Academy.

Those teams have just a few weeks to design, build and program their robots before they'll have to put them to the test against other schools. A pair of FIRST Robotics regional competitions will be held March 7-9 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, with more than 100 teams expected.

Volunteers are needed to assist with the staging of the competition.

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