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Area robotics teams to scrimmage Saturday at Willmar Senior High, event open to the public

Nineteen high school FIRST Robotics teams from as far away as Grand Forks, North Dakota, will hold a preseason scrimmage Saturday at Willmar Senior High School from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The public is invited to see the robots and watch the scrimmages.

Willmar High School freshmen Miguel Garcia, from left, and Isaiah Vazquez work on programming for the robot during an afterschool gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting this Saturday's FIRST Robotics Week Zero event at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Willmar High School freshmen robotics team members Miguel Garcia, left, and Isaiah Vazquez work on programming for the robot during an after-school gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting the FIRST Robotics Week Zero event Saturday at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Robots and teams of students from 19 area high schools will take over Willmar Senior High School’s gyms Saturday to show off the robots they’ve built this winter.

The public is invited to come to see the robots and watch the matches, which begin at 9 a.m. and end at 3:45 p.m.

The FIRST Robotics Week Zero event is like a preseason scrimmage for the teams, a chance to judge the performance of the robots they spent the past six weeks building.

Willmar High School robotics students work on their robot during an afterschool gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting this Saturday's FIRST Robotics Week Zero event at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Willmar High School robotics students work on their robot during an after-school gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting the FIRST Robotics Week Zero event Saturday at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Willmar robotics coach Mike Kroeker said they hope people come out to see what’s going on in the schools, and to show younger kids what they could do when they’re older.

Most of the teams are from schools in the area, but teams from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and St. Michael-Albertville, Minnesota, schools also plan to participate.

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Teams have a different challenge each year. This year, it’s a transportation-themed challenge, sponsored by Boeing. Robots gather cargo (large rubber balls) off the tarmac and deposit it in hoppers in the hub. In the final seconds, the robots are to race to a hangar and climb a ladder.

The challenge is revealed to all teams on the same day, and they then receive their building kits. They are given six weeks to build and test their robots, and the deadline is fast approaching.

Wednesday afternoon, Willmar’s WARPSPEED 4239 team was hard at work, trying to make up for lost time because of a snow day Tuesday.

“We lost five hours of work time,” said senior Mason Winzenburg, 18.

Wyatt Larson, a sophomore at Willmar High School, works to complete a robot during an afterschool gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting this Saturday's FIRST Robotics Week Zero event at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Wyatt Larson, a sophomore at Willmar High School, works to complete the team robot during an after-school gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting this Saturday's FIRST Robotics Week Zero event at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Robotics coaches Kroeker and Ian Bergh helped out or offered some advice but the team members were busy and working on their own in small groups. Kroeker said the busy group isn’t difficult to supervise. “Nobody’s standing around,” he said.

Junior Kole Lindemann, 17, was working on the attachment that would help the robot climb the ladder. It’s his third year on the team.

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“I like the hands-on part,” he said. “We find a problem, find the solution to that problem, and then we build it.”

Natasha Valenzuela-Cabrera, 16, a sophomore, is the team’s head electrician in her second year on the team. She said the wiring was complete, but the coding team was troubleshooting a problem with the computer coding that would run the robot.

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“Without the code we can’t run the robot,” she said. The team has put “a lot of heart and soul” into the robot, she added.

Willmar High School freshman Derik Johnson searches for parts to construct a robot during an afterschool gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
Willmar High School freshman Derik Johnson searches for parts to complete the team robot during an after-school gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
Willmar High School freshman Daniel Pauff works on some wiring during an afterschool gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting this Saturday's FIRST Robotics Week Zero event at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Willmar High School freshman robotics team member Daniel Pauff works on some wiring during an after-school gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The team will be hosting the FIRST Robotics Week Zero event this Saturday at Willmar High School beginning at 9 a.m.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
Willmar High School junior Kole Lindemann works on making hooks for a climber during an afterschool gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
Willmar High School junior Kole Lindemann works on making hooks for a climber during an after-school gathering on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, to prepare the local robotics team's entry for this weekend's event.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

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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