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Engineered to behead the competition

Farmington High School Rogue Robotics team has parlayed a winning season into trips to the World Robotics Championships this month and the state competition in May. Kara Hildreth / contributor 1 / 2
The Rogue Robotics team engineered the robot Guillotine for the 2017-18 season challenge called “Power Up,” in which alliances using three robots attempt to lift power cubes onto a scale. Kara Hildreth / contributor2 / 2

FARMINGTON — Rogue Robotics and Guillotine have fought competitively fierce this season.

The Farmington High School team is going to the world championships April 25-28 in Detroit. Students say the robot is ready to compete against 400 others from across the globe.

"We named him because he looked like a guillotine with scrap metal," senior Ashley Neurauter said.

"I am so proud of all our team, the build team did all the framing and made it what it is," added the drive team captain, who plans to study electrical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

"This is the team's second time qualifying for the world championship; they competed there in 2016, and we also won the Industrial Design Award sponsored by General Motors that is awarded to teams with a robot that is efficiently designed and effective for the season's challenge," team member Abigail Kreger said.

This year the FHS Rogue Robotics placed fifth in the state out of 218 teams. As part of the Minnesota State High School League, the team also will compete at state competition on May 19 at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis.

The members spent six weeks building the robot. Head coach Spencer Elvebak said they are now hard at work on strategy to deploy during competition.

"They found a way to mesh the STEM world with a competitive sport, and it draws all the things you love about competitive sports with spectators that fill the arena stands," Elvebak said.

By the end of season, member will have invested 20 to 40 hours a week at school working late nights and weekends. This is in addition to balancing school work, outside school and sports activities and part-time jobs.

Build captain and senior Zach Champlin said he loves all the facets of robotics.

"I think it is a lot of pressure going into each match, but then when match starts that pressure goes away and it is just you and the robot and you don't have time to think about anything else because if you do, you will screw up," Champlin said. He plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota-Duluth after graduation.

"I joined robotics because I thought it sounded cool and now I am in love with it," Champlin said.

"I like having control and just building something bigger picture rather than just putting together something small," Champlin said. "It takes my mind off everything else and I can focus on thinking and what I am doing to be productive instead of just video games."

Now the team is reviewing scouting reports to see the strengths and weaknesses of teams they will face in competition.

"Our robot can pick up cubes at any angle off the ground at any angle and secure them really well and drive fast to the scale," coach Elvebak said. "Probably the hardest challenge is to get the cubes seven feet high in the air."

This year's challenge is titled "Power Up," where two alliances of three robots each attempt to raise the power cube into the air and place the cubes on a giant scale in the center of a basketball court-sized field.

"The alliance with the scale tipped in their favor gains two points per second that they own the scale and each match is about three minutes long," Kreger explained.

Growing program

Assistant coach David Stauffer said the team has seen increased participation and enjoyed winning competitions in the last years.

"The progression over the last four or five years has been really good, and we struggled because this is a hard thing to learn and we had a lot of growing pains and figuring things out," Stauffer said.

This year the team has more than 40 team members with nearly equal numbers of young men and women.

"The coolest things is watching the kids grow from a teaching standpoint," Stauffer said. "This is all about team problem solving and creative thinking and learning new disciplines within programming and mechatronics and taking real mechanics and mixing it with computers."

Teaching students learn how to collaborate.

"Yes, winning and competition are fun, but that is what it is at the heart," Stauffer said.

Captain of the management team, Lizzie Cash, is in charge of talking to the businesses, working on the finances and gaining sponsorships since the travel and entrant fees are expensive. She plans to study graphic design, art and perhaps marketing and management in college.

"I encourage kids to join because there is a spot for everyone like on our computer programming team, on our build team or if you like woodshop or you like to write or even do photography," Cash said.

Senior Reece Torbert said, "I go out with the team and make sure all is working right before the competition."

During competition, teams also are encouraged to help out other teams that may be facing challenges with their robots.

"It is really cool to travel around and see other people's ideas and how to tackle these tasks and talk about new things," Torbert said who plans to study mechanical engineering at University of Minnesota-Duluth this fall. He said his time on the robotics team cemented that decision.

"We are definitely like a family and it is like my second family — I don't know what I would do without them," Cash said.