The Two Harbors High School-based FIRST Lego League team has spent the week busily preparing for a trip to the state competition Saturday, Feb. 22.
The Robo Dweebs received the Core Values Award at the regional competition in December and a Judge's Award at the sectional competition in January. This qualifies the team for a trip to state where coach Jenna Udenberg said the team has set the ambitious goal of placing in the top three teams. If they achieves their goal, the team would earn a trip to the World Competition in late April.
This year's competition encourages students to look at solving problems in their communities. The teams are judged in three areas: the innovative project, the robot game and on their core values.
For this year's innovative project, teams must pick a public space or building in their hometown that has a problem and design a solution. The Robo Dweebs focused on creating accessible fire escapes for buildings in Two Harbors, such as the Harbor Pointe building.
"We came up with two ideas to provide a better accessible fire escape," said Alex Stone, a Robo Dweeb team member. "The first is a stair winch. That’s essentially a rail system that goes over stairs and then a platform that runs on the top of it, which can be folded up into the wall when it’s not in use."
The other idea, Stone said, is a little bit like a ski gondola on a zipline. It would help individuals trying to escape a building in an evacuation. The team picked this project after interviewing members of the community and researching designs. The team also presented their solutions to the administrators of Harbor Pointe and Bayview Terrace Apartments.
As for the robotics portion of the competition, the students had to design a Lego board and robot that solves community problems by completing a series of tasks such as pulling levers, pushing objects and climbing on a ramp.
"It's been particularly challenging this year," said Robo Dweeb team member Wyatt Huddleston. "We've had a lot of difficulties with it. We even tried designing a totally new robot, but then we found new different problems, so we went back to our old one."
The team has received mentoring assistance from the Hermantown Cyberhawks, a former Lego league team, now a FIRST Tech Challenge team. The Cyberhawk mentors helped the Robo Dweebs improve their programming.
Also mentoring the team this year is former Robo Dweeb and current Rock Solid Robotics co-captain Zack Blaisdell. Blaisdell has been working with the team for the past two years. His work them has earned him a nomination for the Minnesota FIRST Young Leadership Award. At the state competition, he'll find out if he will receive a $250 scholarship from FIRST founder High Tech Kids.