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Northland robotics teams head to world competition

Students in Esko High School's Subzero Robotics team concentrate while driving their robot (red) in competition during the Lake Superior FIRST Regional Robotics competition at the DECC last month. They were attempting to get into position to launch a ball into an opening in the tower at right. (file photo / News Tribune)

Three Northland teams will be among the hundreds taking part in the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis Wednesday through Saturday.

Denfeld Nation Automation (DNA) Robotics 4009 from Denfeld High School, Hermantown Talons Robotics 5232 from Hermantown High School and Esko SubZero Robotics 5690 from Esko High School each left the Northland by bus on Tuesday, bound for Missouri. They earned berths at worlds thanks to their showings at regional competitions earlier this year.

Practice matches start today at the former Edward Jones Dome stadium in St. Louis, with competition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Six-hundred teams from across the U.S. and around the world are registered to take part, according to the FIRST Robotics website.

This year's challenge — revealed to teams in January — required students to build a robot that can pick up small boulders, carry them past an opponent's defenses, throw them into an opponent's castle tower and then pull itself up the tower wall, among other tasks. Teams must build and operate their own robot — but during competition, they also form alliances with other teams.

Last year at worlds, the Duluth East Daredevils were part of a three-team alliance that placed second — the highest place ever achieved by a Minnesota team in the annual FIRST Robotics competition. FIRST is an acronym of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.