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Robotics season kicks off

Two months ago, staff and students at the Two Harbors High School got together with community members to begin planning for this year's Rock Solid Robotics season. The team, which competed in the world competition in St. Louis and placed third at the state level last year, has nearly doubled in size. The team has begun to build a the foundation for a new departmentalized structural system, and will be headed to Itasca Community College on Dec. 7 for a pre-season training workshop.

As part of the new team structure, six departments will be open for student participation. They include design and build, programming, strategy, media and marketing, accounting, and team management. Each department will be headed by a lead mentor and student captain. The goal of these departments is to optimize efficiency and effectiveness, and to provide more leadership opportunities for students. This year, Rock Solid high school team members have been serving as mentors for the brand-new middle school Lego robotics teams at THHS, assisting with team meetings and volunteering at a recent scrimmage competition event.

The Dec. 7 workshop at ICC will kick off the preseason preparation. The team will partake in classes and workshops geared toward learning necessary skills. The classes will focus on wiring, driving, strategy, programming, media platforms and management. The workshops will cover electronics, pneumatics, shop skills, design, solidworks, computer programming and driver training. Coaches Mark Schlangen and Lauren Burton will lead a team meeting and retreat immediately following the workshop to sum up the day and identify student interests for departments. The kick-off for this year's FIRST Robotics challenge will be Jan. 4 at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Then, the team will have six weeks to design, build, program, and learn to drive a competitive robot. This year's regional competition will be March 6-8.

"Even though build season is still a month away, I am excited about the enthusiasm and ideas that our students have offered so far. We've grown in numbers and we have students with a wide variety of skill sets. It is so fun to watch them in action," Burton said. Team captain Owen Cruikshank is optimistic that the team will have another good season.

"We have nine new members and hope to continue our success from last year. We also hope for support from last year's sponsors and community," he said.

This year's sponsorships so far include grants from NASA, Applied Learning Institute, 3M Foundation, HDR Foundation, and the LaBounty Family Fund of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.