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TH and SB robotics return from regionals

The Two Harbors drive team controls the robot during a match on Saturday. From left to right, Dennis Pearson, Willem Bohrer, Owen Cruikshank and Logan Anderson are on the drive team. LaReesa Sandretsky.1 / 2
Gunnar Frahm from the Mariner Robotics team works on the computer with a mentor from the robotics team from Hawaii as Kade Kuusinen and Katherine Fragale tinker with the robot in between matches on Saturday. LaReesa Sandretsky.2 / 2

The robotics teams from Two Harbors and Silver Bay had a successful run at the regional competition last weekend, even competing together in one match.

Despite a slew of snow days that slowed their work on the robot, the Mariners pulled together in the final moments to compete with a functional robot. The team had to “bag and tag” their robot on Feb. 18, per competition rules. That meant they couldn’t touch the robot again until the day before the competition.

It wasn’t completely ready to go when it was bagged and tagged, so the team knew they had some work to do at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Thursday is reserved for team practice and repairs before matches start Friday.

“We had to do some repairs right away,” Coach Chris Belanger said. “It took them every single minute to make the robot fully functional.”

After the pre-competition scrambling, they entered the qualification matches with a robot that Belanger said was the most sophisticated they’ve ever built. Meanwhile, the team from Two Harbors was scoping out the competition and practicing with their robot.

The robots compete in short matches in alliances of three teams, which change throughout the qualification matches. The goal of this year’s competition was to score points by throwing a large exercise ball into and over assorted goals.

After the qualification rounds, the top eight teams of the 50 competitors get to choose their teammates for the semifinals.

“This year we made it to the semifinals,” Two Harbors coach Lauren Burton said. “I felt that it was fantastic.”

The Mariners didn’t make it that far – they ended the qualification rounds ranked 33rd – but Belanger said a highlight for the kids was competing in a match with Two Harbors and a team from Hawaii. Their alliance scored 191 points – the highest score of the competition.

“That was the best match that we ever had,” Belanger said.

Later in the competition, Silver Bay competed on different alliances that defeated both Two Harbors and Hawaii.

“You’re friend one second and foe the next,” Belanger said.

The Two Harbors and Silver Bay teams cooperated in between matches, too, swapping parts to help each other repair their robots. At one point on Saturday, the mentor of the Hawaii team, decked out in a Hawaiian shirt, was seen helping the Silver Bay team in their red flannel button-ups.

The alliance that knocked the Agates out of the semifinals went on to win the entire competition.

“That’s something to be proud of,” Burton said.

Though neither team advanced to the Worlds Competition, they still could qualify for the State Competition. They will find out at the end of April. In the meantime, the kids are busy enjoying the robots with which they spent six weeks tinkering. The teams give a lot of demonstrations after the competition to anyone interested in seeing what the robots can do.

Both coaches thanked their sponsors, who help cover the massive fees for technology and competition entrance. The Mariners are supported by the Arrowhead Manufacturers and Fabricators Association, Medtronic, Cleveland Cliffs, a Perkins grant from the State of Minnesota and the Zion Lutheran Church in Finland. The Agates are supported by Pure Driven, North Shore Steel, Productivity, Hahn Machinery, Maher Trucking, Krech Ojrad and Associates, Stanley LaBounty, HDR, Cleveland Cliffs, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, 3M and NASA.

“We’re just real thankful for our sponsors and the community that came out to watch the matches. It was really fun to see a lot of Two Harbors people there,” Burton said.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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