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Silver Bay robotics team gears up for competition in Duluth

Submitted photo.

While some student teams practice on ice with sticks and others work out on the court with basketballs, the Silver Bay robotics team at William Kelley High School practices in the shop room--with robots.

"It's pretty intense," said activity advisor and William Kelley High School teacher Chris Belanger.

Next weekend the team will compete at the Minnesota FIRST Lake Superior Regional Competition in Duluth at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center against almost 70 other teams from around Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Illinois. At the competition the teams are grouped into alliances of three robots to a team. Each team will take on another team at Rebound Rumble, a take on what could be called robot basketball.

The team is made up of eight Silver Bay students, two girls and six boys, who assembled the robot, working at least 10 hours a week outside of school. Sometimes on weekends they work from noon to 9 p.m. Senior Adam Dugas said he liked working together as a team with practices and a set season. "It's got the feel of a sport," he said.

Team members work on every aspect of the robot, except for senior Tzaddik Oltman who handles the programming. Oltman said he had very little experience in that area but quickly learned it through this activity. He said he plans on going into electrical engineering. "I learned more doing this than in four years of high school," Oltman said.

The team feels confident about their robot, which according to sophomore Brad Rowlee, measures 38 by 24 inches. Rowlee said he joined the team because he likes working on the machines, especially the lathe machine. "I want to be an engineer of some kind," he said.

Belanger said the robotics team has been an option for Silver Bay students to join for the past three years. The cost of the competition can be very expensive. Although the team received some of the robot's parts as part of their registration into the competition, an additional $700 or $800 parts were needed. Local businesses and the University of Minnesota engineering program contributed so the team could build the best robot they could and enter into the competition. "The community has been supportive," Belanger said.

While the robotics team has been an extracurricular activity in the past, next year the robotics team will be part of a credited class at William Kelley High School. "It's a lot of good hands on work," Belanger said.