Updated: 03/07/2014 5:25 PM
Created: 03/07/2014 3:45 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
The fierce FIRST Robotics competition kicked off at the DECC on Friday. Teams learn all kinds of science and technical skills building the bots, but this year one team is pushing drug and alcohol prevention too.
Over 100 teams from around the Midwest descended on the DECC for the Aerial Assist challenge. To win, the high school athletes had to use their robots to drive and dunk exercise balls into goals.
Figuring out how to fling them can be pretty complex according to the Two Harbors Rock Solid Robotics Co-captain Dennis Pearson.
“Two CIM motors go into one gearbox that then spins a hex-shaft into a sprocket with a chain that attaches to the arms, which then throws it. That was complicated,” Pearson said.
He said students build and program the robots, but money from sponsors make it possible for them to buy materials they need.
“They're very important. Without sponsors we couldn't be doing any of this,” Pearson said.
Most sponsors are science or engineering based companies like 3M and Cirrus Aircraft. However a drug and alcohol prevention program called The Movement is powering the robot from Deer River.
“I like The Movement a lot because it helps teens realize that there is more to life in high school than drinking and partying,” Dermont Wester said.
Wester is the safety captain for the Deer River DROBA Warriors. His teammate Tristen Aho agreed and said many of the robotics team members are part of the prevention group.
“It feels really good because a lot of us are in The Movement so then when we have a meeting for The Movement we can king of hang out and talk about it. But then when we're here working on the robot we can talk about the movement too,” Aho said.
The sponsorship helps drug and alcohol prevention by keeping the students busy with robotics.
“I just kind of got hooked into it and ever since I've been putting in hours during school and after hours building it, designing it. We've been going all out,” Wester said.
Working with gears, circuits and motors gets the students ready for future careers, but the teammates build more than just robots.
“I've had a blast with all of these people here. They're my best friends,” Wester said. “It's just a great time to hang out and have fun with all of them.”
The matches on Friday were just qualifying rounds. The competition continues on Saturday with the final rounds starting at 1:30 p.m.
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