Ashland Robotics Team Heads to State Tourney In First Season

Dan Romano
Created: March 01, 2018 11:02 PM

Robotics competitions are a growing sport in the Northland. Although, Duluth high schools are already nationally recognized, that’s not the cast in northwestern Wisconsin, yet.

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The robotics team at Ashland High School is in the middle of their first season, and they have already exceeded many expectations.

That team has only competed in one event, ever. But in that competition, they finished in second place which qualified them for the state tournament in Milwaukee. Friday morning, team is heading south.

Erik Van Horn is a senior at the high school and one of the students that spearheaded the team's inception.

“It means a lot, especially because it's our first year doing it. I asked a couple of my friends to join the team, and we grew larger and larger. The school has had the parts we needed for a while. They've just been sitting back there for three or four years, and every once in a while, a bunch of us would grab and build something with them," Van Horn.

John Hiebl is one on the co-advisors for the robotics team. Hiebl says the success the team had in their first competition caught a lot of people, including the rookie squad, by surprise.

"That they were able to be so successful, that was cool to see and cool to watch, because I did not anticipate on seeing that happen, and I don't know many of the kids did, too. So, they did a great job with that, said Hiebl.

Van Horn says their early success can be attributed to their drive, even if his parents worry where he is well after school.

“My phone actually died. And they were like ‘where were you?’ I said I was building robots. But [my Mom] wasn't concerned because that was the second or third time that I've been here late working on robotics," said Van Horn.

Sophomore David Wallis is one of the youngsters on the team, but he’s having just as much fun as the kids on the rest of the team.

"Robots are just cool, and I’m pretty excited. I've never been to Milwaukee either, so it'll be pretty cool to walk around the college,” said Wallis.

Even though they're relatively new, this squad has high hopes.

"I think we're going to do really well. Right when we got back from our first competition, we tore the whole robot apart. It was on the table in pieces the day after we got back. Because we got a lot of information from other teams on how to improve the robot, how to make it faster, how to stack cones better,” said Van Horn.

And they're hoping to turn this early success into a lasting tradition.

"Erik and Alec, two of the seniors, are the only ones that know how to program the robot. Next year, they'll be gone, so one of us has to learn,” said Wallis.

The state championship will be held Saturday morning at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. There, Ashland High School will battle 47 other teams for a trophy.


Dan Romano

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