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Rosemount's battling bot takes 17th

Pictured in the back row:  Sahil Adige, assistant coach Raj Adige, Catie Tessman, Nick Olson, Sam Olson, Thane Storley, Brock Totman, Sierra Wahlin-Rhoades and Jarod Totman. In front: Laura Rietveld, Estyban Merseth, coach Dan Little, Sheila the robot and Adric Towsley. Not pictured: Assistant coach Mark Towsley, Daniel Armstrong and Arnau Payette.

For a group of 14 Rosemount High School students, learning the finer points of engineering involved an exercise ball, a goal and a little teamwork.

Oh, and a couple of robots.

The members of the RHS robotics team finished 17th out of 60 teams at a regional competition held last weekend at Mariucci Arena. Over the course of two days, a robot the team built had to toss a 24-inch exercise ball to robots built by teams from other schools, then put the ball through a goal 10 feet off of the ground.

Coach Dan Little, in his second year with the team, said he was happy with the result. The Irish finished ahead of teams from Eagan and Eastview and on par with traditional powers like Edina and Prior Lake.

“I think that’s very highly encouraging for us,” Little said. ”Our team this year is mostly first-year members, the bulk of which were freshmen. It’s a very young team with not a lot of experience and we were still right up there.”

Last year, the Rosemount team had just five members.

Rosemount’s regional competition, which took place Friday and Saturday, was one of two held on the University of Minnesota campus. There was another competition the same days at nearby Williams Arena. That one drew 63 teams.

Little sees a lot of value in the activity for students. Over the course of several weeks, they put the principles of science and engineering into action. Rather than simply learning an equation, they have to understand the physics behind flinging a five-pound ball across the room to a waiting robot.

“The kids not only really reinforce those concepts, but they have to learn how to share it with others and they have to learn how to be on a team,” Little said.

The Rosemount team built two robots in preparation for the competition — one that actually took the floor and a second, less capable robot that they used in practice.

They also had to learn the mechanical skills that go into building a robot. Little said one of the freshmen on his team can now weld as well as one of his friends who is a professional.

The competition

In each round of last weekend’s competition the Rosemount team was paired with robots from two other teams to compete against another three-robot team. Each successful pass earned a school 10 bonus points once a goal was scored.

“In one round we could be playing with Eagan or Chaska, and then in the next round we could be playing against them,” Little said.

The competition was intense, Little said. Rosemount competed against big schools like Eden Prairie and Minneapolis South. Teams that move on from the region typically do well in national competition.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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