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Nettebergs named to Robotics Hall of Fame

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Team 3102 mentors Olaf and Kay Netteberg shared a moment in the spotlight at the University of Minnesota Saturday when they both were inducted into the Minnesota Robotics Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Contributed / Olaf Netteberg
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Kay and Olaf Netteberg were two of four robotics mentors in the state inducted into the Minnesota Robotics Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the state robotics competition at the University of Minnesota Saturday.

“What a great way of recognizing the countless contributions the Netteberg family and the coaches of the Tech-No Tigers have made throughout the years,” Nevis School Superintendent Gregg Parks said. “We are so proud of you and proud your peers have recognized how much you have given to robotics across the state!”

Olaf has been involved in robotics since 2010. “Our school started robotics in 2009,” he said. “I helped out, but didn’t start being a mentor until the next year.”

Kay became a robotics mentor seven years ago. Their son, Kael, has been going to robotics meets with his parents since he was a young child.

Now a freshman, he is on the robotics chairman’s team.

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“He’s a great public speaker,” Olaf said.

“He’s loving it because finally he gets to participate as a team member instead of just being an extra,” Kay said. “It’s a family event for us. We ‘bot’ together.”

Creating opportunities up north

Olaf was part of the group that created the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference, modeled after what is done in athletics. There are 30 participating schools, including some from North Dakota.

“Minnesota is one of three states where robotics is recognized as a varsity activity,” he said. “We have great support from 3M and our school, along with the Lions, Nevis Fire Relief Association and community members. Linda Daugherty and her family are summer residents who have generously supported us for years. Her family donated that field to us, so we could have access here because at that time everything happened in the Metro. It was the first field to be privately purchased. Kay and I drove to Indiana to pick it up. We use it for our Week Zero event with 24 teams and at other events including regional competitions where it was used as a practice field. In 2019, we had 128 teams use our field for practice in Duluth.”

Olaf said he likes the motto “Robotics – the only sport where everyone goes pro.”

“The skills you learn in robotics you will apply no matter what your career is,” he said.

The Nettebergs attended the Worlds competition in Houston Texas this spring. “It was really amazing,” Kay said. “We learned so much.The Northwest Service Cooperative sponsored a group of nine coaches from northwestern Minnesota. We did a lot of networking with mentors from huge, powerhouse teams. We came back very inspired for next season. Some of the teams we saw from large urban areas have 150 students and 30 plus mentors, including NASA engineers and programmers. We definitely have to work a lot harder. Where we left off in Iowa was so fantastic. My wish is we could continue to go up on that trajectory going into next season. We’ve got a great group of ninth graders right now and a fantastic driver who will be a junior.”

A role model for women in STEM

Kay said she believes it is important to show female students that they can do anything their male peers can do.

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“I work really hard to promote that,” she said. “When you go to Worlds, you see a lot of all-boy teams and male mentors. It’s starting to change a little bit. At all our events, we try to empower girls to feel confident and have a network of girls they can talk to. We want to bridge that gap. I think the girls on our team feel like they can do anything.”

She said she feels like she is a role model in that respect. “They see that I hold my own, and I lead them through how they can get that confidence and to not be afraid to try anything,” she said.

Kay said her specialities are outreach, awards and scouting. “This year, I also started learning how to program,” she said. “I do a lot of stuff with our website, public speaking and making videos for our sponsors and presentations.”Kay also runs the education in the schools program at Nevis.

“We have a curriculum for our students and are working on a five-year goal of having something in every classroom,” she said. “We did Bristle Bots in the fifth grade classroom. You make a robot out of a watch battery and the head of a toothbrush and a little vibrating motor and have competitions with them by putting legs on so they can spin or push or go straight.”

She said she loves problem solving and “thinking outside the box” in robotics.

“It teaches kids how to fail, come back and succeed,” she said. “It also teaches kids how to work as a team.”

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RELATED COVERAGE:
Nevis junior Kiana Bjorkstrand, Team 3102’s lead robot driver, has earned the Minnesota Robotics Coaches Association All-State Academic Award.

Lorie Skarpness has been writing for the Enterprise since 2017.
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