The Sanford Center in Bemidji is planning to host one of the few in-person robotics events in the world this spring.
“The Northern Minnesota Robotics Association has been working diligently to organize a tournament event on Saturday, April 17 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji,” Nevis robotics mentor Kay Netteberg said.
“So far, we have a green light to hold this event, following the COVID requirements set forth by the state and the activities-school governing bodies. We will know for certain that this tournament will take place by mid-March. This may be only one of a handful of season events happening in the world this year in FIRST robotics.”
Mobile robotics trailer first in the region
The Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference (NMRC) now has the very first mobile robotics field trailer ready to be deployed across northern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.
“For the past seven years the Nevis High School robotics team has worked diligently to help area teams by giving them access to their field throughout the season,” a spokesperson for NMRC said. “Up until last year, there was only one field in Minnesota, that a team could possibly get access to year round. This field is owned and operated by one of our founding member teams, 3102 the Tech-No-Tigers in Nevis. They have hosted both a kick off event and a scrimmage prior to the competition portion of each season. This allows teams to get on the field for the first time in almost nine months. For the past three seasons, they have transported, set up and run their field for teams to practice on during large-scale regional robotics competitions in both Duluth and Grand Forks. he large-scale event in Duluth has had as many as 124 teams from around the world in attendance in each of the last few years. This trailer will house and transport the Nevis field throughout NMRC territory and beyond.”
Nevis Superintendent Gregg Parks said the covered trailer will provide a place to store the playing field when not in use and transport it to events throughout the season.
“The North Country Regional Vocational Cooperative came up with $18,000 for the trailer,” he said. “Between us and Cass Lake, we’ll be able to house the field in the trailer when we take it out of the building and use it to take it to competitions. We’re still working out details of licensing and ownership. Having a trailer to store and transport the Nevis field will help to make our team more responsive to local events.”
In the past, robotics coaches from Nevis sometimes had to transport the field to an event site, unload it, and then return back home to pick up all their team's gear as well, effectively doubling their time on the road.
According to NMRC, robotics teams in this region face unique challenges. One of the largest challenges is geographic isolation compared to their peers in central Minnesota. The NMRC covers more than 35,000 square miles and stretches from Hatton, N. D. to Grand Marais. For the vast majority of teams, access to a fully functional robotics field other than during competition is virtually nonexistent.
“This new trailer will have a long-lasting effect for everyone involved with our programs,” an NMRA news release said. “The trailer will provide permanent housing for the field when not in use and will save dozens of volunteer hours a year by limiting loading and unloading of the field. It will also insure increased field life with far less wear and tear from unnecessary handling, which is a good thing considering the $30,000 investment it would take to replace it.”
Ultimately, the NMRC’s goal is to move the field to several different communities throughout the NMRC during the season if a suitable space can be secured for its set up.
Team working on new robot
Members of the Nevis Tech-No-Tigers team 3102 are currently working on building a new robot to compete in the same challenge as last year.
“We have set new goals of implementing new technologies and programming on this robot and our team has begun programming in JAVA and are utilizing components on the robot that we have never used before,” Netteberg said. “All in all, this year is a great opportunity for our team to rebuild and regroup after the pandemic ended our season abruptly last spring and 16 seniors on the team graduated last spring.”
This year’s team has four returning members and 11 new members. “They are learning on the job and doing fantastic,” Netteberg said. “One new aspect of our program is that a few new members wanted to develop a STEM activity curriculum for the elementary students K-6. They are in the process of organizing materials, writing lesson plans, determining how to instruct in a distance platform, and hope to have a STEM activity day in late April for those grades.”