From March 1-4, one hundred and twenty high school robotics teams gathered at the DECC for the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition. The Mariner Robotics team of Silver Bay has six team members in 7th to 9th grade, all of whom are first-year robotics members. They also have five “very active” mentors, two of whom are Mariner Robotics alumni.
This year’s challenge was to build a robot that could pick up a set of objects, carry them across an open space, and stack them at different levels on the other side. Besides that, part of the course had to be done autonomously.
Nicole Schossow, Regional Director for Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, explained more about the challenge in an interview with Fox21. “The team got their challenge about six weeks ago. They were told, okay, this year you’re going to lift cones, and you’re going to need to place blocks. And they need to be placed in this array. Other than that, they don’t tell you how it needs to happen, and in what way. So, every single robot that we have here is just a little bit different. They each have their own method to their madness that they have figured out, and what they’re going to work on and focus on for their build team. So, it really is very imaginative and creative,” Schossow said.
Mariner Robotics had “kind of a rollercoaster of an event,” according to lead mentor Chris Belanger. “Great start to practice matches on Thursday, followed by two low matches and challenges and finished off with a great match to go into Friday.”
Friday’s qualification matches went fine, though the team had to deal with camera connection issues at the beginning. A match with incorrect wires was plugged in, and the robot threw a track during a match and became unable to move. Belanger said the team “finished the day again on a high note with a couple of solid runs, and cooperation with their alliance members.” At the end of the day, Mariner Robotics was seeded at 9 of 60, and the team was “enthusiastic about the accomplishments.”
The first match of Saturday was tough, but the team “performed very well”. However, the final two matches, unfortunately, resulted in two thrown tracks, so the robots couldn’t move for most of those matches and fell to finish 34th out of 60.
Belanger says that the result is “not what we were hoping for after Friday, but all in all, the students had a great experience and a taste of what FIRST robotics is about.”
Most team members are enthusiastic about returning next year, and for now the team will be doing some demonstrations for their sponsors and looking to “see what we can do in the off-season and prepare for 2024.”