AHS robotics team gets ready for state competition

Published 10:18 am Friday, April 17, 2015

The Austin High School Robotics Team poses with the robot they will take to the Minnesota State High School League’s state tournament May 16.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The Austin High School Robotics Team poses with the robot they will take to the Minnesota State High School League’s state tournament May 16. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Furious George is ready to rumble for a state championship.

Austin High School’s robotics team, Furious George, will compete in the Minnesota State High School League’s state tournament starting at 8 a.m. on May 16 at Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota.

This is the seventh season for AHS’s robotics club, which has about 25 members, but this is the first time the team made it to state.

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“We’re pretty excited; we’ve never made it to the state championship before,” said Club President Grace Andersen, a senior. “This is the best our team has ever done in the seven years we’ve been a team, and we’re pretty excited about that.”

Stacking up

The team had six weeks to design and build their robot for the competition. Then the robot must stay in a plastic bag to ensure each team gets the same amount of practice and work time.

The team based this year’s robot off of a couple past designs, and the team was actually able to have a working prototype by week two, according to coach Ryan Stanley, a career and tech. education teacher at AHS.

“We have worked really hard during the build season to complete a robot that works very, very well doing the task at hand which is stacking totes and then stacking a container on top,” Stanley said.



Each competition has a different set of games or tasks the robot must accomplish. Last year’s task was shooting an exercise ball through a target. This year’s first competition was in Duluth, and teams had a second competition in Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota.

To prepare for the competition, the team is allowed to un-bag the robot for six hours to work on it and practice. The team met Thursday with engineers from Hormel Foods Corp. who are mentoring the team, to talk about practice and competition techniques.

Stanley said one of the team’s main goals this year was to make it to the state competition, and he thinks the students have a shot at winning.

“I think if we perform as well as we did at the regional competitions, I think we have a good shot,” he said.

Austin’s team is ranked No. 12 out of 192 teams in the state — 30 of which reached state.

Though Grace and her teammates are excited, they’re anticipating a difficult battle.

“I think that it’s going to be a much more difficult competition than the ones that we’ve been to,” Grace said. “Just because it’s the top 30 teams in the state, so every team there is going to have an amazing robot and it’s going to be really interesting to see who wins.”

Yet Grace hasn’t let that shake her, and the team is getting prepared working to its robot’s strengths.

“I think that we’re one of the best landfill robots in the state which is an area that not a lot of robots are good at per say,” Grace said. “And I think that’s something that will make us a valuable member of the team.”

Team treasurer Vanessa Lynn, a junior, is also excited to head to the state championship.

“I’m really excited just to be on the team and actually go to this contest,” she said.

She thinks the team has a chance at a strong finish.

“I think our tote stacking is amazing, we can get like six of them,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

Learning with robots

But it’s not just about the competition. Vanessa has has learned a lot since she joined the robotics team, and her favorite part is meeting new people.

“My favorite part is just the traveling and getting to see all the teams and how much work they put into their robots,” Vanessa said. “I met a few people that have so many more similar interests than I would have thought.”



Grace has also learned in the club, and she hopes other students will share in the fun.

“Just come and join, you don’t have to know anything coming in; that’s kind of the point: We teach you everything,” Grace said. “I knew literally nothing when I joined except for that I thought robots might kind of be cool to do, and yeah I’ve learned a ton.”

Stanley hopes the club’s success will inspire others to join the team, and he’s excited to start seeing students from I.J. Holton Intermediate School’s robotics team come to AHS.

“I am very excited about the future, and having [the students at I.J. Holton] have that experience is going to be beneficial for our team, because they’re already going to have programing experience, they’re already going to have building and design experience, and then competition experience,” Stanley said. “Most of the members that I bring, if I bring them the first year they’re hooked for their entire career as a student.”

Stanley hopes the robotic’s club gives students tools to help shape their futures.

“I hope that they gain some design knowledge and some fabrication knowledge that can help them in whatever they do after high school,” Stanley said.

It’s done just that for Grace. The club helped inspire her plans to study electrical engineering and chemistry after high school.

“Being on the robotics team is kind of how I decided what I want to do with my life, so that’s been great,” she said. “And then it’s also nice to hang out with people who have a lot of similar interests as you that other people aren’t necessarily interested in, like talking about robots and engineering and science with a bunch of people that all think it’s amazing like you do.”

The May 16 competitions are free and open to the public.


Awards the AHS robotics team has won this year

•Industrial Design Award presented by GM

•Excellence in Engineering Presented by Delphi

•Voted No. 1 in pit safety

•Alliance took fourth in the Northern Lights Regional in Duluth

•Alliance took third in the Northstar Regional in Minneapolis

•Highest Scoring robot at the Onalaska Week Zero event


To see more about Furious George and how the robots compete, watch these short videos:

•A match from the tournament at Mariucci Arena in April at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgNvFXa7Au4

•In the pits and getting ready at www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8U3GK5bV2w