Bluejacket Robotics qualifies for World Championships

Kathy Vik
Bluejacket Robotics Booster Club President

Who would have thought it possible for the Bluejacket Robotics team to make it twice to the World Championships since it started in 2015?

They are making it look like everyone gets to go every year, when in reality it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The 2017 Cambridge-Isanti High School Robotics regional winning team.
The 2017 Cambridge-Isanti High School Robotics regional winning team.

In Minnesota, F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) hosts four regional competitions, in which approximately 250 teams participate, and only about 20 teams get to move on to the World Championships. So for the Bluejacket Robotics team to go there twice in three seasons is amazing. The team has consistently been about 24 students in size.

The first year, 11 of the 21 students were seniors, who were invited to the World Championships by winning the Rookie All Star Award. An award that in the words of F.I.R.S.T: “Celebrates the rookie team exemplifying a young but strong partnership effort, as well as implementing the mission of FIRST to inspire students to learn more about science and technology.” So no matter how well you place in the competition, you get to go compete against the best of the best in the world.

Throughout the last two years, the team has learned a few things about the world of robotics and the ethos of F.I.R.S.T. These students learned not only about the engineering and mechanics or building the robot, but learned how to work as a team, research and scout out their competitors, communicate with their alliance members (who might have been a competitor in another match) and work with gracious professionalism and cooperation.

This year’s team is very young with only two seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and 11 freshmen. When the season started the coaches all said, let’s make this a learning year, with such a young team, we probably won’t get past regional level. The build season kicked off Jan. 7 and they learned the theme of this year’s game to be Steamworks, and the design process began. The students worked in small groups thinking strategy and design, and the adults present discovered they had a group of very smart and talented students they were going to be working with, but most had never been in a team sport before, so working together was something to learn.

Coach John Almos was named a finalist of the Woodie Flowers award.
Coach John Almos was named a finalist of the Woodie Flowers award.

In the six weeks they were given to design and build their robot, things started to come together, then came the night of what is known as “bag and tag,” which like it sounds, the 120-pound robot is put into a giant plastic bag and zip-tied with a special inspection tag. It becomes hands off to the students until competition day.

On March 24, the Bluejacket team traveled to Duluth to participate in the Lake Superior Regional at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center in which they were up against 62 other teams for a chance to advance. This competition ended with the Bluejacket team in 35th out of the 63 teams present. The coaches were very pleased with how the students did, and everyone could tell, by the end of the fast-paced three days, they had learned a lot about team work. Luckily the funding was available to participate in a second regional this year, and although the robot was wrapped back up in its bag, and driving practice was not allowed, the team felt ready.

Upon arrival at the North Star regional in the Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus, Minneapolis, they realized they were up against many veteran teams. Only about seven teams were established between 2015-2017. All the other 53 teams were older and more experienced so competition was fierce. At the end of the 80 qualifying matches, they placed sixth out of 60 teams earning them a spot as an alliance team captain in the quarterfinals. Choosing team 2491 No Mythic (finished 13th) and team 2574 Robo Huskies (finished 24th) as their alliance partners, they played and earned their way to semifinals, then went into championship final matches. Only two alliances of three teams each competed for the Gold medal. The matches proved very intense, and although the alliance known as Mythic Blue Huskies, combining all three names, played hard, they finished with the silver medal.

At the award ceremony, we watched many great people get awards. Our team cheered loudly for each and everyone of them, proving what a great group of young people they are. At the end of the ceremony it was announced that in the event of a team qualifying for the World championships more than once, a Wild card spot is created. It was then we learned all three teams on the Gold medal alliance had earned their spots at other regionals. So all three teams who earned silver were told they too get to go to the World Championships.
In just two weeks, April 25, the team will head to St. Louis to compete with teams from around the world. As you can imagine, the team, parents and robotics booster club are all very excited.

And now, another surprise, our Coach John Almos, was named a finalist of the Woodie Flowers Award. Named after one of the supporters of F.I.R.S.T, this award recognizes an individual who has done an outstanding job of motivation through communication while also challenging the students to be clear and succinct in recognizing the value of communication. As such, it is very important that this be a student-led effort and a student decision. He will now be one of four coaches to represent the four regionals held in Minnesota at the World Championships. The Bluejacket Robotics team has truly put Cambridge-Isanti High School on the map, and has brought a lot of recognition to the Robotics and S.T.E.M based programs to their communities. To find out more on the world championship, visit firstchampionship.org and click on St. Louis.

To make the trip, the team will now be fundraising to get the money needed for travel expenses. If you would like to help the students, consider donating to their team. The team will be helping bag groceries at Cub Foods in Cambridge on Saturday, April 15 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and donations can be dropped off there during that time for the team.

A Go Fund Me page is being set up or consider helping by mailing a check payable to the Bluejacket Robotics Booster Club, Attn: John Almos, 430 8th Ave. NW, Cambridge, MN 55008.