U robotics team to head to St. Louis

The team will compete against 12 other colleges in the championship.


If BattleBots is World Wrestling Entertainment in mechanical form, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs GO FIRST robotics team is robo-football, head robot designer and University student Danny Blau said.
With help from the College of Science and Engineering as well as corporate sponsors like weapons manufacturer ATK, the GO FIRST robotics team has been able to build its own pair of robots to take to St. Louis for the first ever national competition, the St. Louis FIRST championship.
Blau, an aerospace engineering and mechanics major, is one of about 12 students who will make the trip at the end of April.
Competing against more than a dozen other schools from across the country, Blau is confident in his teamâÄôs ability to navigate the obstacle courses set by the national FIRST Robotics program.
The games, three in total, are a combination of ground and aerial challenges.
In one game, teams must navigate a series of rings hanging in the air.
âÄúItâÄôs similar to quidditch,âÄù Blau said.
Another game is along the lines of capture the flag, with the ground and aerial robots working in tandem to claim certain boxes by either shooting a ball into a hole in the box or having an aerial robot land on top of it.
While the GO FIRST team is still waiting on parts for its ground robot, Blau has already constructed a helicopter consisting of not one, but four rotors.
The team is currently waiting on a new flight control board before taking the helicopter robot for a test run.
The best team at the competition will be awarded a new robot control board.
With the FIRST high school robotics competition coming to Mariucci and Williams arenas this weekend, Blau is confident the team will be able to show off its robot before moving on to a national stage.
Founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST Robotics is an acronym meaning âÄúFor Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.âÄù
The organization feels scientists and engineers deserve the rockstar status that athletes and musicians have, Renee Becker, president of the UniversityâÄôs team, said.
âÄúWe are what we celebrate,âÄù Becker stressed.
âÄúItâÄôs really a phenomenal program,âÄù said Arthur Erdman, director of the Medical Devices Center at the University. âÄúItâÄôs a great way to spark excitement, teamwork and innovation amongst high school students.âÄù
This is ErdmanâÄôs fourth year serving as a judge for the high school competition.
With more than 100 high school teams competing, itâÄôs hard to ignore the impact FIRST Robotics has had on students, said Becker, who interviews students and puts together a video from the competition every year.
But while FIRST Robotics was created to cater to high school students, the UniversityâÄôs GO FIRST group and other similar college-level organizations are a congregation of alumni of FIRST Robotics who serve as advisers to high school teams, helping them throughout the year as well as through competitions.
This weekend, Becker will be advising more than six teams during the competition.
With the 75th anniversary of the College of Science and Engineering this year, GO FIRST pledged at least 75 hours of community service, as did a handful of other student organizations.
Midway through the spring semester, GO FIRST has already amassed more than 500 hours of volunteer work and hopes to surpass 1,000 hours by summer.
âÄúGracious competition and cooperation is the heart and soul,âÄù said Blau. âÄúItâÄôs really what makes this program stand out.âÄù