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Two Harbors, Silver Bay robotics compete in regional finals

From left, Jake Wilmont and Andrew Hulst work on the Two Harbors robot in the pits at the Minnesota FIRST regional competition March 4 at the DECC in Duluth. (News-Chronicle photo by Adelle Whitefoot)1 / 4
From left, Silver Bay students Al Robertsen and Andrew Evenson carry their teams robot from the playing field during the Minnesota FIRST regional competition March 4 at the DECC in Duluth. (News-Chronicle photo by Adelle Whitefoot)2 / 4
From left, Silver Bay students Willem Bohrer, Nora Hubbard and Navah Swoverland worked together to navigate their robot during the Minnesota FIRST regional competition March 4 at the DECC in Duluth. (News-Chronicle photo by Adelle Whitefoot)3 / 4
From left, Silver Bay students Andrew Evenson, Al Robertsen and Gunnar Frahm went for a match during the Minnesota FIRST regional competition March 4 at the DECC in Duluth. (News-Chronicle photo by Adelle Whitefoot)4 / 4

Balls were flying, walls were scaled and gates were opened during the 2016 Minnesota FIRST robotics Northern Lights Regional Saturday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center where both Two Harbors and Silver Bay made it to the final rounds.

The Two Harbors team Rock Solid Robotics finished in eighth place at the end of the qualifying rounds, earning them a captain position for the finals where they picked Bionic Polars from North St. Paul, Minn., and Nicolet FEAR from Glendale, Wis., to be on their alliance. The Silver Bay team Mariners Robotics finished in 11th place but was picked to be on an alliance with Rogue Robotics from Farmington, Minn., and the Gators from Greenbush Middle River, Minn.

Rock Solid Robotics lost in the quarterfinals by a score of 105-110, but was awarded the Imagery Award. The award celebrates attractiveness in engineering and outstanding visual aesthetic  integration of machine and team appearance, Two Harbors coach Mark Schlangen said.

“Winning the Imagery Award and becoming an alliance captain were both great honors and well-deserved by the students,” he said.

Mariners Robotics may have been ranked 11th, but the team was picked by the number one alliance captain, the Rogue Robotics. The alliance won both their quarterfinal and semifinal matches to make it to the championship match. The alliance then lost two straight and ended in second place in the regional.

“The team was exhausted and thrilled of what we achieved,” said Silver Bay coach Chris Belanger. “They had a great time competing and being a part of the team. This was the best team that I have ever had.”

The two-day competition didn’t end without any bumps in the road along the way. The Silver Bay robot broke four gear boxes in the same motor at different times for a still unknown reason, but the team is looking into a new gear box strategy to fix the robot in preparation for a potential MSHSL competition in May. The team also cracked  a threaded hub that was part of the climbing mechanism.

“They never gave up, they kept fighting, and we are grateful for the teams that picked us to give us a chance in the finals. Everything paid off,” Belanger said. “This was even with a team next to us in the pits that myself and a couple of our student fought to assist them with their many needs.”

The Two Harbors robot had some issues of its own early on.

“Early on the robot had some connectivity issues with the field management system that resulted in some lower scores,” Schlangen said. “The issue was resolved and the drive team did a great job of making up the lost points.”

The game this year was called “Stronghold.” Alliances had to work together to breach the other teams area by lifting gates, opening doors and getting over other obstacles. Once in the opponent's area, robots received points by throwing balls into a tower and even scaling it, which only a few teams were able to accomplish. One of those scaling teams was Mariners Robotics.

“I was cheering like crazy in the pits watching (the robot scale) on TV,” Belanger said. “It was a great feeling because we accomplished all of our goals that we set forth at the beginning of the season.”

Even though neither team won the regional both coaches said they were proud of their teams.

“It was really impressive to see small schools like Two Harbors and Silver Bay do so well while going up against much larger schools,” Schlangen said. “Robotics doesn’t have any divisions that has teams compete against similar sized schools.”

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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