BBE ninth graders tackle Rebound Rumble robotic competition in Duluth

Robotics Club

Tyler Borgerding, (left), president of the Robotic Club at BBE High School, and Instructor Tom Gjerstad look over the Phoenix, a robot created to participate in the Rebound Rumble robotic competition in Duluth March 8 - 10.

By Liz Verley, Staff Writer

The ninth grade Robotic Club at Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE) is in its first year and will be entering their basketball throwing robot in competition. The competition, known as the Rebound Rumble, will be held March 8 – 10 at the Deck in Duluth.

Instructor Tom Gjerstad said, “For first year club members, the students involved with making our robot are really catching on. Everyone is doing a tremendous amount of work. It has been a challenge. People are amazed at our accomplishment.”

Club President Tyler  Borgerding said, “The New London-Spicer Club has been mentoring us. Without them we would not be where we are today.  They lent us parts and have been very helpful. They have been great to work with.”

Members of the club, which is called The Phoenix Builders, meet after school to work on the project. Members include: Benjamin Wetzel, programmer for the project; Nathaniel Bast, builder; Tyler Borgerding, leader and builder; Nathan Wander, builder; Jordan Swenson, builder; and Jacob Solbreaken, builder. The robot is called  Phoenix.

Gjerstad said, “We are always looking for donations to help us pay for our robot. It is very expensive. We have been very lucky having four adult mentors on the project. They include Joe and Danny Borgerding, our mechanical experts; Mike West, electrical expert and Gary Hanson who is helping us with the air dynamics of the robot. They have put in a lot of time as have the students.”

Rebound Rumble is a game designed to be played on-field by two alliances of three robots each.

On each end of the field are four scoring hoops —one on the bottom, two in the middle, and one on the top. Robots score by either shooting or placing foam basketballs into their team’s baskets. The higher the robot gets the ball into the scoring hoops, the more points will be earned.

The first 15 seconds of the match is the autonomous or hybrid period, where teams can program their robots to score points on their own, or while being controlled by a team member using the Kinect motion sensor. During the driver-operated period, human players step forward to their robot’s controls to try to score as many points as possible before the end of the match.

For additional points, drivers can balance their robots on bridges in the center of the field. The amount of robots and their position on the balance board will determine how many extra points are earned.

There is also the possibility for robots from separate alliances to balance on the center bridge to earn cooperation points.

Gjerstad said, “This project gives students not interested in sports the chance to be involved in a part of the school and to be recognized for an accomplishment. They are learning tremendous skills which they can use when they go on to other things. The kids involved are constantly teaching each
other.”

He said, “This has been so successful that next year we are going to offer a
robotic class.”

The team spent a busy weekend preceding their deadline for completing the project. By midnight, Feb. 21, the project had to be completed, wrapped and sealed. School administration had to sign a document stating that the project had been completed and sealed by the deadline.

“It takes a lot of teamwork and time to make it all work. Teamwork is a big part of the success,” said Tyler.

Gjerstad said, “We had a busy weekend. The programing was very tough but we made it. We worked on the project until about 10 p.m. on Tuesday. There were a few bugs, but we got them worked out and the Phoenix now raises the ball high enough without losing it. I think we will do okay at the competition. The teamwork made a big difference. We are a small team, but we can accomplish great things with a little bit of teamwork.”

Tyler said, “A project like this is costly. Everyone chipped in to help pay for it. We did have a grant from NASA for the base of the Phoenix, but we scrounged for material and used as many scraps as we could. While we had a hard time raising the money, we completed the project.”

Gjerstad said, “We are always open to donations.” Anyone interested in knowing more about the club or wishing to make a donation toward the students’ trip should contact Gjerstad at (320) 282-8373.

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