Seth Johnson/Daily Journal: Nathan Onstad (left) and David Grotberg show their winning robot. The team will advance to participate in BEST Robotic Competition Dec. 6-8.

Archived Story

Local team wins robotics competition

Published 11:20am Monday, October 29, 2012 Updated 11:20am Monday, October 29, 2012

In just six weeks, a group of six students from Fergus Falls and the surrounding areas turned a box of pieces and parts into a space elevator. Well maybe it wasn’t exactly a space elevator, but that was the concept for the 2012 BEST Robotics Competition.

The group based out of Fergus Falls took home the top prize, winning the “BEST” award.

“We knew we had a shot, and we knew we would do well, but we didn’t know we were going to win,” said team member Nathan Onstad.

This is the second year the team has participated in the event, and last year they took 10th place out of 24 teams and won best rookie team.

“It has been really exciting to watch them in their second year,” said team mentor Barb Onstad. “They improved so much and learned a lot. It has been a really educational experience.”

Each year, participants face a new six-week robotics challenge. This year’s challenge was to build a robot that can move up and down a 10-foot pole while picking up and setting down objects.

The project was designed to mimic a space elevator, a transportation system that could be ancored to earth but extends to space.

The robot designed by the local team used rope and a spool to move the machine up and down and an arm made of PVC pipe could move in and out. At the end of the arm was a clamp to pick up and set down objects. All of the robot’s functions were opperated with a wireless controller.

“It looks exactly like an Xbox controller,” said Onstad.

While all of the robots constructed for the competition had the same objective, there was a wide variety of designs. Some used a lot of cardboard, others climbed the pole using gears and one even used a soup can as a spool, said team member David Grotberg.

“You can expect to see anything at these competitions,” he said.

Most of the teams had 15 to 30 members, but the Fergus Falls-basead team had six.

“The biggest challenge was time,” said Onstad. “We were the smallest team there. One of the teams had 87. The time necessary to get it done with six takes a lot of commitment. Most teammembers put in 15 to 20 hours a week but some put in as much as 60.”

The team will move on to the regional BEST Robotics Competition Dec. 6 through 8, where they will face the top teams from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

  • Frizzel

    Congrats! You have a bright future ahead of you.

  • The Derp Squad

    It’s unfortunate that more stories like this one aren’t published, mostly because intellectual and educational extra-curriculars have a lot less frequency as the sports-based alternatives. I was a proud member of the Speech and Knowledge Bowl teams, and feel that articles profiling things like this are a positive sign that Fergus Falls is supportive to those students willing to find constructive ways to excel outside the classroom.

    Great job guys!

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