Archived Story

Robotics team diversity lends creativity to project

Published 11:38am Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tucked in a corner of WestRidge Mall, just past the movie theater, is a nondescript storefront that looks like many of the others that inhabit the mall.

But what goes on in this space is unlike anything else at WestRidge.

The Central Lakes Robotics Team has made this space their headquarters while preparing for the 2013 BEST Robotics competition at North Dakota State University. Work for the competition began Sept. 21 and the team will travel to the two-day competition on Nov. 1, leaving a little over a week for the team to finish the many facets of the competition.

“We’re doing really well,” David Grotberg said. “We’re definitely much farther ahead than I have been on the previous team I was involved with.”

Grotberg, 16, is in his third year competing at Best Robotics. The previous two years, he worked with a team made up exclusively of home-schooled kids, but the team numbers started dwindling and Grotberg began looking for a new team.

He opened up the pool to include Kennedy School students and now has a 14-person team comprised of home schoolers and KSS students, a mixture of kids that Grotberg said has been beneficial to the work.

“It definitely broadens the personality range,” he said. “We’re not all coming from the same schooling area. I like it this way better because we’re getting more students involved that have specific interests.”

Because there are several elements required for the competition, the team has divided the workload. Grotberg serves as a sort of director of operations, overseeing each element of the project and making sure things run smoothly.

Anna Doric, a relative newcomer to the group who joined about two weeks ago, has been working on the group’s research paper and helping David’s sister Elizabeth with the table display.

One of the KSS students, Kallan Sandahl, has worked on building parts for the robot and will lead the team’s flag presentation at the competition.

“It’s nice to know that I have helped contribute to the robot,” Sandahl said.

The competition has a complex scoring system. For the robot portion, teams must use their robot to place dowels in containers, place clothes-hangers on pegs and place styrofoam pieces into a board to symbolize assembling a processor, David Grotberg said.

But the competition is not just about the robot. There is also the table display, research paper, a 30-page engineering notebook, marketing presentation and a team spirit and sportsmanship score. All of these different facets will be added together to come up with a final score.

Last year, Grotberg’s team came in first place in the local and regional competitions. Last year’s trophy sits in the window display of the team’s headquarters this year, providing motivation to match or exceed that finish this year.

The team has been working hard, but for Doric, in her first year on a robotics team, it hasn’t felt much like work.

“It’s a fun atmosphere,” she said. “You feel like you are a part of helping and doing something that is productive.”

WestRidge Mall donated the empty store space to the team after Grotberg contacted them. He wanted to use the mall because more members of this team live in Fergus Falls.

Taking part in the competition has been quite the time commitment. Grotberg is at the mall six days a week, about six hours a day during the week and eight hours on Saturday. Doric estimated she spends about 15 hours with the team each week and Sandahl shows up on Saturdays and weekdays when she doesn’t work.

But after weeks of hard work, the competition is drawing near. The robot is 95 percent done, according to David Grotberg, and the last few days before the competition will be mostly spent on test runs and final preparations.

There is one more thing the team needs for the competition: loud support.

“The judges will look at how many people we have in our stands cheering for us,” David Grotberg said. “The more people that make it down to the competition to cheer for us, the better.”

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