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Esko robotics team advances to playoffs at worlds

Esko's SubZero Robotics has advanced to the playoff rounds today at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis.

The Esko team, which finished ninth in its subdivision of 68 teams during qualification-round matches Thursday and Friday, is in an alliance with teams from Waukesha, Wis., and Smithville, Mo.  

Esko completed the two-day, 10-match qualification round with a record of 6-3-1. The Duluth East Daredevils, competing in another subdivision, went 5-5 and were ranked 36th; the Daredevils did not advance to the playoff round.

FIRST Robotics teams must build and operate their own robot — but during competition, they also form alliances with other teams.

In this year's challenge, called Steamworks, robots must pick up balls and put them into a "boiler." The more balls that go into the boiler, the more "steam" builds in the boiler to power an "airship." Two students are in the airship, and the robots need to move gears to the airship, where the students put the gears together to power the ship. In the final part of the competition, the robots pull themselves up a rope to board the ship.

The event in St. Louis features more than 400 teams from across the U.S. and around the world. It was the fifth world championship appearance for Duluth East, which finished second in 2015, and the second appearance at worlds for Esko.