BY: ANDREW DAHLEN, Electronics Technology Automated Systems Instructor & VEX Robotics Coordinator
A trailer in the movie business encourages people to go see a new film. Another type of trailer is loaded with cargo and pulled behind a vehicle. Both of these definitions apply to NCTC’s Pioneers Robotics activities this year.
We begin with the movie trailer. I encourage you to read the next few lines in your best Don LaFontaine movie trailer voice:
“In a battle to save the world’s workforce from a lack of skilled engineers and technicians, one college is hosting the ultimate robotics competition. Middle and high school students from Northwest Minnesota armed with their superior robotics intellect will compete in the VEX Robotics Competition Challenge: Starstruck! This January, witness the power of this fully armed and operational robotics competition.”
That was fun. But seriously, Northland Community and Technical College is hosting the Pioneers Robotics VRC (Vex Robotics Competition) Tournament on Saturday, January 14th on the Thief River Falls campus gymnasium. A total of 50 teams from Northwest Minnesota will be competing. This event is free and open to the public. Teams will compete in 75 qualification rounds from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM. The elimination bracket starts around 3:00 followed by the awards ceremony. Everything wraps up around 5:00 PM.
Credits: This tournament is sponsored by the 360° Center of Manufacturing Excellence, Digi-Key Electronics, Philadelphia Macaroni Company, Central Boiler, and SMC Corporation. We are incredibly grateful for these sponsors as they continue to support the mission of Pioneer Robotics at NCTC. We are dedicated to promoting careers in Manufacturing. Each robotics teams is similar to a small manufacturing company. Students are faced with competition, strict deadlines, numerous technical challenges, and finite resources. Successful teams push though these constraints with innovative solutions, teamwork and perseverance. The experience of being part of a robotics team is excellent preparation for students to enter the workforce. Thank you to all of our sponsors who recognize the value of the VEX Robotics outreach program. Many of these companies have scholarship opportunities for high school graduates entering select technical programs at Northland.
The other trailer I mentioned is an 8’ X 20’ enclosed car hauler. This trailer is complete with nearly all the equipment needed to run a VEX Robotics Competition Tournament including completion fields, computers, and Public Announcement system. Andrew Dahlen, NCTC electronics Instructor, delivers the trailer to the event, helps event organizers setup, provides training for volunteers, offers technical support, and emcees the tournaments. The Pioneers Robotics trailer has already supported robotics tournaments in East Grand Forks, Fisher, St Cloud, and Erskine. Future events include the Thief River Pioneers Robotics Tournament, Minnesota’s State Championship Tournament in St Cloud, Minn. and North Dakota’s State Championship Tournament in Grand Forks, ND. We want to make it easy to host a VEX Robotics tournament. The trailer package brings the robotics events into the local communities. This allows parents, relatives, and community members to see first-hand what these robotics tournaments are all about. These events are new and foreign to most in the community. A local robotics tournament gives the community an opportunity experience, understand and appreciate competitive robotics. Someday robotics competitions will be just as popular and commonplace as basketball or football events.
Seven years ago we started the VEX Robotics Competition in Minnesota. At that time there were 8 teams. Today there are 230 teams in Minnesota. If Minnesota continues on this path there will be over 400 teams in Minnesota next year. Teams typically attend multiple tournaments in a season. Local events reduce travel expenses for teams, which stretches their budget dollars allowing teams to compete in more tournaments. The Pioneers Robotics Trailer makes it easy for a school to host a tournament and as a result Northwest Minnesota is able to meet the increased demand for tournament spots. Growth of the VEX Robotics Competition requires an increase in tournament capacity. Teams are encouraged to host tournaments as the registration fees, and concessions sold at these events are an excellent fundraiser for their team. We have received numerous inquiries for other schools looking to host a robotics tournament in their hometown next year.
To fund the Pioneers Robotics project Andrew authored a proposal to the 360° Center for Manufacturing Excellence. The proposal was approved which provided $19,450 to create the Pioneer Robotics Trailer. An additional $4000 was donated by Andrew and Jennifer Dahlen. This is a small investment in the future of our youth and the manufacturing workforce. Additional funds provided by corporate sponsors including Digi-Key Electronics, Philadelphia Macaroni Inc., and SMC Corporation, and help to offset the Pioneers Robotics Activities. Thank you.
I am looking forward to the Pioneers Robotics VRC Tournament on January 14th. Come on over, grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.