The Fergus Falls OtterBots, FIRST FRC Robotics team will compete Mar. 10 and 11 at the Great Northern Regional Competition in Grand Forks.
Over 50 robotics teams will attend this year's event being held at the Alerus Center.
OtterBots is part of the FIRST Robotics Program. They compete at regional events with teams from all over Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
The OtterBots team is made up of Landen Krause, Lance Johnson, Braden Bucher, Olivia Swanson, Logan Bredenberg, Kendal Hanson, Alexandra Grotberg, Tim Ekelund, Eric Swanson and Eleisha Krause. The team mentors are Bob Drake, Darrin Hanson, Aaron Demuth, Jennifer Krause and coach Bill Swanson.
According to organization, “The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that fosteEngage PreK-12 (ages 4-18) students in exciting, mentor-based, research and robotics programs that help them become science and technology leaders, as well as well-rounded contributors to society.”
The game challenge this year is called “Charged Up!”
In the challenge, robots will have two minutes and 15 seconds to place as many road cones and square inflatable cubes in a particular order on the game field. The first 15 seconds of the match is an autonomous period where the computer programmers of the team show off their work when the robot can only respond to pre-programmed commands. In the last thirty seconds, robots will climb on a “charge station,” which is a teeter-totter-like platform, and attempt to balance in the last seconds of the match without falling off. The competition promises to be another tense and exciting event.
“There was a big challenge this year coming up with a mechanism to pick up two greatly different style game pieces,” said Landen Krause, the 2023 team captain of the OtterBots, “It was challenging and fun to develop all aspects of the robot.”
Since the challenge was released on Jan. 7, students and mentors with Fergus Falls OtterBots have been working hard to design, build and test a competitive bot. While there are very few limitations on design, the robot has some size and weight limitations (125 lbs) but other than that, the sky's the limit.
One of the new developments this year in competition that the team undertook for the first time is a new drive system called “Swerve Drive."
As the programmer on the team, Eric Swanson explained, “Working with the swerve drive was very difficult but rewarding. It is fun to see all four wheels operate independently and drive and rotate in any direction like a crab walks.”
The OtterBots are attempting to repeat the success of 2022, when they qualified for the Minnesota State High School League State robotics competition held on the University of Minnesota Campus at Williams Arena.
Swanson said there are over 200 FIRST FRC robotics teams in the state and only the top 36 teams will qualify and be invited to the state tournament in May.
The head coach of the team, Bill Swanson, expressed, “We couldn’t make all this work without our primary sponsors, Otter Tail Power, US Bank, and Central Lakes Robotics. The team thanks you so much for your support. If you can't make the trip to the Great Northern Regional, you can still catch the action via live streaming. Follow the team on Facebook for updates and links to watch the event live!”
According to the University of Minnesota, just four years ago, there were only two FIRST Robotics teams in Minnesota. With sponsorships from the U of M and corporations such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, 3M, St. Jude Medical, Lockheed Martin, General Mills, Cargill, BAE Systems, PTC, Pentair and others, the number of robotics teams in Minnesota has grown over the years. They say worldwide there are more than 1,800 FIRST Robotics teams involving more than 45,000 high school students.