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Robotics teams climb to new heights at regionals in Duluth

Crosby-Ironton students received high-fives as they returned with their robot to the pit area following their match on Saturday. The team was among the dozens of high school FIRST robotics teams that converged on the Duluth Entertainment Conventi...

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Teams compete in the arena during the FIRST Robotics Lake Superior Regional at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Saturday. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Crosby-Ironton students received high-fives as they returned with their robot to the pit area following their match on Saturday.

The team was among the dozens of high school FIRST robotics teams that converged on the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center this weekend for the Lake Superior and Northern Lights regional robotics competitions.

The Crosby-Ironton High School robotics team was doing better in the competition on Saturday than it did on Friday, team members reported. This year is the team's second year in existence. The students were trying to improve using what they learned during last year's competition and were doing better than they did last year, 10th-grader Walker McKee said.

In this year's challenge, teams needed to build a robot that could pick up and put balls into a "boiler," move gears and pull themselves up a rope.

Michael Serfling, an 11th-grader at Crosby-Ironton, explained that he learns skills while building the robot that he doesn't learn in school.

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The team focused on building a robot that could move the gears and kept coming up with new ideas to test out, McKee said. Serfling explained that creating a robot that could climb a rope was difficult, and they burned out a motor while testing their robot. McKee added that it's a lot of trial and error and readjusting different parts of the robot until it works.

The challenge was "very different" this year, but the Iron Mosquitoes robotics team from Northeast Range School in Babbitt didn't have to create an entirely different robot compared to robots they've built in previous years, 12th-grader Chad Wills said.

The Babbitt team did well in its inaugural competition two years ago, but this year was harder because there were more aspects to the challenge, he said.

"The climbing seemed like it would be the hardest thing, but that was our top priority, and we got that working pretty early," he said.

As a relatively new team, the Iron Mosquitoes are trying to learn and improve with each year.

"It's taken three years to do it, but we're getting a hold on it," Wills said.

The Rock Solid Robotics team from Two Harbors High School spent the first week of this year's season getting a grasp on the game because this year's challenge was so different, 10th-grader Kristin Haveri explained. From there, they designed and built the robot, but the different aspects didn't mean they needed to construct a robot that was vastly different from previous years, she said.

The most challenging part of building the robot was getting it to climb the rope, Two Harbors 10th-grader Navah Swoverland said. The competition started out rough for the team, but the robot climbed during the team's last three matches, and the team won its last two matches, Haveri said.

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This was Two Harbors' fifth year of competition, but they have a young team this year and the lack of older, experienced students on the team added a level of difficulty, Haveri said.

"The best part was working with a team because we're such a small team, but everyone knows each other. We all are friends and get to work together," she said.

Hibbing High School's robotics team focused on building a robot this year that could move the gears and climb the rope because those two aspects were worth the most points, 11th-grader Maria Valentini said.

"It's just different games (each year). They're all pretty challenging; there are just different aspects," she said.

The most challenging part of the season was sorting through all of the ideas to come up with the design for the best robot, she said.

She's enjoyed the camaraderie of Hibbing's team this year, she said, adding, "There are a lot of really hard challenges, and it was nice to see the things we worked hard on working out for us."

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