VC Robotics Club Rallies at Competition

Area students recently competed in A BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology), robotics competition at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. The Valley City robotics team, whose members call themselves the Hi-Linerds, took home prizes that included first place for “Most Robust Robot,” first place for “Mentor of the Year,” second place for their robot, third place for their engineering notebook, and third place overall. The club’s second place distinction earned it a spot in the Regional BEST competition in Fargo in December.

Under the instruction of Mel Klingenberg, technology teacher and team mentor, along with volunteer Dave Gazeley, the team built and demonstrated a radio-controlled robot that could pick up a number of items of various weight and climb a pole with each item. Using a remote WiFi controller, students then had to place the objects in different places demonstrating its ability to make precise movements.

The team includes Michael Britt, seventh grade; Hannah Sorenson, seventh grade; Jacob Bernston, eighth grade; Eric Johnson, eighth grade; Guy Gazely, eighth grade; Paige Gould, eighth grade; Hunter Olstead, eighth grade; Jasmine Smith, eighth grade; Mikey Meester, eighth grade; Darris Thoreson, freshman; and club president Adam Hart, senior.

This was the second BEST competition for Klingenberg and some of the students. Last year the team only entered a robot and an engineering notebook, which was required, and placed third of nine entries. This year they took all that they learned before and made their entries bigger and better, said Klingenberg.

The competition kick-off was on Sept. 8, when the playing field and game were revealed. Before then, the students didn’t know what they were to build or what their robot would be required to do. That day each team received a kit of identical materials they used to build their robot from BEST. The kit, which was valued at more than $1000, contained parts that had to be returned and some materials that the club got to keep.

The group was allowed six weeks to design, build, and market the robot.

Marketing the machine was an important part of the competition and was a judging category, so the group split into two sections, one to build the robot and one to market it. The group was expected to create a display that would interest and educate spectators. Some displays were quite elaborate, according to Klingenberg. In addition, the marketing group had to raise funds to pay for replacement parts, transportation, and tee shirts. To do so, the team sold homecoming buttons.

On Oct. 13, the club participated in Mall Day at West Acres Mall. There, the students got to display their creation, try it out in public, and scope out the competition. The competition was daunting, according to Klingenberg. After that, the group had time to make minor adjustments to the robot.

On competition day, Oct. 21, the robotics club competed against five other teams in Wahpeton where they were judged on their project engineering notebook, their marketing presention, their table exhibit and interview, spirit and sportsmanship, and the performance of their robot.

Each member of the team was thrilled with the trophies they took back to Valley City for the school trophy case (which incidentally collapsed under the weight of the new additions), and Klingenberg was shocked when he heard his name called out for “Mentor of the Year,” he said.

“I really just left them (students) alone to do their thing,” he said.
“The competition was pretty cool!” said Hunter Olstead who worked on the marketing part of the project. “It was a good opportunity to experience a real-world situation, and a good chance for putting our heads together.”

Next, the robotics team will compete in a regional competition in Fargo on Dec. 6. Before then, the Hi-Linerds need to make some changes to their robot and raise enough money to pay for those changes and pay for the trip. Parents and other spectators are urged to attend, as the team will be judged on spirit and sportsmanship.