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Deadline near for FIRST Robotics teams: Public invited to ‘Week Zero’ scrimmage Saturday in Willmar

WILLMAR -- This week, Willmar's FIRST Robotics team was working feverishly to finish its robot before Saturday. The West Central Alliance Hub, a group of five area robotics teams, will be hosting a scrimmage from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Will...

Erica Dischino / TribuneDerrick Seubert, co-captain of Willmar’s FIRST Robotics team, uses a drill Tuesday to piece together a robot at Willmar Senior High School. The team, called Warpspeed 4239, is preparing for a scrimmage Saturday in Willmar. The scrimmage is hosted by the West Central Alliance Hub, a group of five area robotics teams including Willmar.
Erica Dischino / Tribune Derrick Seubert, co-captain of Willmar’s FIRST Robotics team, uses a drill Tuesday to piece together a robot at Willmar Senior High School. The team, called Warpspeed 4239, is preparing for a scrimmage Saturday in Willmar. The scrimmage is hosted by the West Central Alliance Hub, a group of five area robotics teams including Willmar.

WILLMAR - This week, Willmar's FIRST Robotics team was working feverishly to finish its robot before Saturday.

The West Central Alliance Hub, a group of five area robotics teams, will be hosting a scrimmage from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Willmar Senior High School. There is no admission charge, and the public is welcome to attend.

Other teams in the West Central Alliance are New London-Spicer, Belgrade-Belgrade-Elrosa, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg and Renville County West.

The scrimmage is called a Week Zero event. All FIRST Robotics teams learned last month what their annual challenge will be, and they have a six-week deadline to build their robots before they have to seal them in plastic until competitions start.

This scrimmage will give teams a chance to test out their robots when they still have three days until the deadline, said adviser Mike Kroeker.

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The game this year, FIRST Power Up, is like a lifesize-version of an arcade game, Kroeker said. Three teams on each side try to gain the most points by moving boxes around the game area to earn points and defeat the Boss in order to escape.

Scrimmages throughout the day will bring randomly selected teams into the Big Red gym at the high school. The new gym next door will be a pit area where teams can work on their robots when they aren't competing. Without the new gym, this type of event would have been difficult.

Volunteers from the alliance schools will be there to help set up and keep things running smoothly, Kroeker said.

As the host school, Willmar's 19-member robotics team is responsible for many of the details. The team's name is Warpspeed, which stands for Willmar Area Robotics Programming, Simulation, Pneumatic, Electrical, Engineering and Design.

Earlier this week, some students were working on the components of the robot while others were working on plans for the Saturday event.

Robotics attracts students with lots of interests, Kroeker said. They use skills from a variety of their high school classes - communications, computer programming, industrial technology, math, drafting.

A number of mentor-helpers from the community work with the team when they can. One of the goals of FIRST is to have students work side by side with professionals, he said.

Another help is former team members who keep in touch and sometimes offer advice or ideas. "They loved this enough that they want to still be involved," Kroeker said.

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The team has two captains, junior Derrick Seubert and senior Anna Peterson. Both have been team members since ninth grade.

As Seubert puts it, "we're in charge of making sure everyone knows what they're doing ... and helping the teams do time management." Different teams are involved in business, woodworking, art, building, programming and electronics.

Since about half the team members are new this year, they said, they also do some teaching.

Seubert is head of the building team. Some of his interests are in metal fabricating and design.

Peterson is heading the business and art efforts. She likes to work in the metal shop, especially in plasma cutting.

As a captain for the first time in four years, she's doing more planning than she has in the past. They keep in touch with the captains of the other alliance teams using email and a messaging app called Slack, also used by many businesses.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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