Albert Lea’s robotics team to return to the state
Posted at 7:05 PM Tue, Dec 20, 2022
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The team is tied for the state record for most trophies from a single team
Even with the seriously cold temperatures and snow this past week, the weather couldn’t stop the broken zip ties.
The high school robotics team had what Coach Burke Igner, the technology integration teacher for the Albert Lea School District and coach of both the middle and high school robotics teams, called an “amazing” weekend.
“We went to two tournaments,” he said. “On Friday, the Albert Lea robotics teams, in both middle school and high school, attended the Robotics Championships in Minnesota Mankato. The Broken Zip Ties team took home a tournament finalist trophy for making it to the final as well as…a design award at that tournament.” .
According to Egner, Broken Zip Ties also held the state record for most points scored in a single game of the event.
And on Saturday, the university team attended a tournament in Windom, where they placed a championship champion, taking home the award for most competitive and well-designed robot and the award for excellence in programming and driver skills.
“All five of these awards … qualified me for the Government Robotics Championship,” he said. “So in one weekend we got five invitations to the Government Robotics Championship.”
These were the third and fourth tournaments the team has participated in this year, after one at the Mall of America and Southland Public Schools.
Igner noted that the registration deadlines were prior to the events, and said that if he had known which team qualified for the state in the Mankato tournament, they would not have competed in Windom.
“Normally we don’t schedule two back-to-back tournaments like that, but just the way the schedule works this year – that’s when those two tournaments – the broken zip ties at that point were chasing an official invitation and so we’re trying to make sure we have every chance of getting an invite.” official.”
This year’s game was “Spin Up,” in which the object of the game was to launch Frisbee-like discs into a high target, something he described as similar to disc golf. It was a two-minute game, and the first 15 seconds were driverless, autonomous control. Once this part is over, the drivers try to collect 60 discs and place them in a high goal for points. Discs launched into the goal score five points, and discs that land on the ground under the goal earn one point for the opposing team. During the last ten seconds of a match, teams can launch pieces attached to their robot to cover as much ground as possible. Each field tile earns three points.
“I honestly believed they would qualify,” he said. “What amazes me is the ingenuity with which they continue to innovate and the ideas they come up with.”
Senior Paul “Kenny” Hillman is in his second year in the program, although he previously worked in VEX robotics.
“I wasn’t the most athletic type person back then in eighth grade, and I didn’t find much interest in sports,” he said.
Hillman, who has done some building work and scouting for other teams, said the whole experience taught him patience and that organization was key.
Building this year’s robot began at the end of last year’s global competition after the game was announced.
“While driving home, they are actually designing and sketching ideas for the robot,” he said.
His favorite part of the experience is working with other people he enjoys, and he has learned to think on his feet.
Eighth-grade student Molly Nelson, who runs a team, previously participated in robotics in middle school.
“I wanted to join something new,” she said of her decision to join middle school.
She’s also considering a career in STEM, and said the program was just as she expected it to be.
“Champions are the same format,” she said.
So far, the experience has taught her how to work with people, and she plans to stay on the team next year.
The team will now compete in the tournament on March 2 and 3 at the St. Cloud Rivers Edge Convention Center. But Eigner’s biggest goal for the club was to help students find passion in STEM-related fields and develop their skills, whether it be robotics, engineering, aviation, or something else.
And after the team’s success last year, in which the team qualified for a world class competition in Dallas, Eigner said the club has nearly doubled in size and now has 13 students.
“I think being successful in the program helps get other students involved and to be a part of something electric, if you will,” he said.
Ahead of the weekend, the team received a judge’s award for excellence in interview and design at an event in November in Southland.
“With these six awards, the Broken Zip Ties team is now tied for the state record for the year for the most awards for a single team, tied with a team from Mankato West High School,” he said.
Aigner would also like to see more girls in high school robotics (there are two currently).
“We’d like to start an all-girl robotics team and have Molly, our veteran student, lead an all-girl team,” he said. “I really need more girls…to try it out and hopefully break some stereotypes and create a welcoming place for an all-girl team.”
This is Egner’s second year of high school coaching, although he has been coaching middle school for five years.
“I am very proud of the work and dedication they put into the robot,” said Aigner. “To have a robot of this caliber and this quality is not something they can only do here at the school.”
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