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Robots take over DECC: FIRST Robotics will host a double regional this weekend

Teams compete in the arena during the FIRST Robotics Lake Superior and Northern Light regionals at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. (2017 file / News Tribune)

Thousands of high school students will converge on the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center this weekend for the FIRST Robotics double regional.

The Northern Light and Lake Superior regionals will take place Friday and Saturday with qualifying matches both days and optional practice matches Thursday. Teams have been working on their robots since January and they were bagged Feb. 20, the cutoff to do work before the regionals. Last-minute adjustments will have to be made this weekend before and during the matches. This year’s game is called “Power Up,” which alludes to a retro arcade game.

This year’s game deals with “power cubes.” The robots will have to move, lift and dump power cubes onto a scale or switch. Each alliance will receive points for each cube put on a scale or delivered through the power exchange. Any power cubes delivered through the power exchange can either be given back to the robot or put in the alliance’s vault to work toward one of three power-ups: force, boost or levitate.

The force power-up allows one alliance to take ownership of the other’s switch, scale or both depending on how many power cubes are in the vault before the power up is activated. The boost power-up allows an alliance to earn double the points for 10 seconds on either the switch, scale or both.

The levitate power-up allows one member of the alliance a free climb near the end of the match, which earns 30 points. This free climb can go to a robot that doesn’t have the capability to climb or didn’t finish the climb before the end of the match. Power-ups can only be used once in a match.

“There’s a lot of collaboration and strategy between teams and I think there are some important things that you can do early on in the match to score a lot of points to get an advantage in the match,” said Paul Schonfeld, coach of the Duluth Marshall TopperBots.

The qualifying matches on Friday and Saturday match up teams randomly and the top eight teams move on to the playoffs Saturday and create their own alliance by picking two other teams to compete with. During the matches, collaboration and communication are important for teams to move on to the quarterfinals, Schonfeld said.

“The one year we made it to the quarterfinals, the one team that picked us for their alliance said part of the reason was because they thought we worked well together and we communicated really well,” he said.

The event is free and open to the public. Matches will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. on Friday with a break for lunch and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday with a break for lunch.

Local area schools taking part in the regionals include Duluth Marshall, Duluth Denfeld, Duluth East, Lakeview Christian Academy, Hermantown, Silver Bay, Two Harbors, Proctor Carlton and Esko.

“I think it’s fun to see the work all of these students have done,” Schonfeld said. “We have a lot of talented and collaborative teams in the area for folks to cheer on.”

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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