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Robots at the ready: Robotics camp held at NTC

Chris Slocum, left, of Mankato West High School, and Nathan Kalthoff, of Albany High School, adjust their robot on Friday during the VEX Robotics Camp at Northwest Technical College. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 2
Brisa Bennett, left, and Chris Slocum size up the competition field on Friday during the VEX Robotics Camp at Northwest Technical College. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 2

BEMIDJI—Eleven students from a handful of Minnesota school districts spent the past week designing and building robots at a camp that culminated in an exhibition Friday at Northwest Technical College.

Junior and high school-aged kids from Mankato, St. Cloud, Albany, Rocori, and Fisher schools were randomly assigned to three teams and competed in a double-elimination bracket. Students came up with colorful team names such as the Rebels, Barker's Banc, and the Cows That Meow.

Each team's robot was asked to operate autonomously for the first 15 seconds of each two-minute match. A student driver took over for the remainder, using their robot to toggle flags from one color to another, flip wobbly-looking "caps" or stack them onto poles near the edge of the competition area, or park the machine on one of three raised platforms.

After a few hiccups and false starts during the autonomous portion, Barker's Banc beat the Cows that Meow 9 - 8 in the first match of the afternoon in front of a small crowd of college staff, camp organizers, and parents.

The camp wasn't necessarily designed to get students interested in attending the technical college, said Darrin Strosahl, the vice president of academic affairs there. But it did encourage campers to explore robotics and consider a career in, say, mechatronics or engineering later in life, he explained. Students visited Wells Technology and AirCorps Aviation earlier in the week as part of the program.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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