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Marie Nitke/FOCUS Members of the Perham team test their robot's balancing skills in a high school hallway last week. They are, from left to right: Michael Thompson, Kanyon Edvall, Matt Wunderlich and Tyler Wieser-Matthews.

Team Brobotix gears up for regionals

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The Perham High School robotics team is preparing for competition.

This year, the team's robot not only needs to move forward, backward and around corners - it also has to have moves like Michael Jordan.

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To earn points in the competition, the robot has to shoot hoops - as many as possible in two minutes - using a mechanical arm that works in much the same way as a pitching machine.

The Perham team is called Team Brobotix (Brobotix+2, actually, because there are two girls who joined the team late). The team will compete at the Minnesota FIRST 10,000 Lakes Regional competition at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, March 29-31.

Team Brobotix will compete against 63 other teams from schools across the state, including some bigger schools from the Twin Cities metro area. Regional winners will go on to compete at the state championship in May.

There are about 12 students in grades nine through 12 on the Perham team. They've been working on their robot since early January.

"It's fun," said team member Matt Wunderlich, a freshman. "You learn new things, and you meet new friends."

"It's really useful," added freshman Kanyon Edvall. "Especially if you want to go into a field like engineering."

With help from an adult coach, Shane Snyder, and mentor Chris Happel, the students 'do it all' in regards to the robot, building it from scratch.

Students design the robot, construct it with wood and metals, wire it, program it using the latest computer software technology, and then learn to operate it via a wireless remote control. The finished robot is about the size of a small coffee table.

Team members explained that they get divided into three subgroups during the planning phase: builders, programmers and designers. The students in these subgroups work on their specific tasks independently for a while, then the team comes together and works as a whole to put all the pieces together into one functioning robot.

Edvall, a programmer, explained how the team uses the computer software, LabVIEW, to communicate with the robot:

"The robot needs a computer code to tell it how to drive - LabVIEW gives us the basic code, and we fill in the details. You can program the robot to recognize things like switches, joysticks and controllers - we use an Xbox controller. Programming tells the robot what to do when it receives input from the controller. The controller makes it move forward, backward, or turn."

Being a part of Team Brobotix, said junior Calvin Sailer, "has broadened my horizons on computer programming."

In addition to those students already mentioned, Team Brobotix is: Cassie Beseman, Ben LaFond, Maria Lorenson, Ryan Melchoir, Zack Pary, Michael Thompson, Riley Tostenson, Logan Vorderbruggen and Tyler Wieser-Matthews.

Team sponsors include Pentair, Kit Masters, KLN Family Brands, BHH Partners, Dave and Dawn Edvall, Vorderbruggen's Bean Mill, Schwiegert Computers and Area Travel. The students also sold lightbulbs to raise funds for the team.

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