Watch the above video to meet the PAS ArrowBots.
The Pipestone Area Schools (PAS) robotics team, ArrowBots, Team 3298, attended two competitions this year, the Northern Lights Regional in Duluth, March 2-5, and the Great Northern Regional in Grand Forks, March 24-26.
The team, consisting of five members ranging from freshmen to sophomores, were first-time in-person attendees at this year’s events. Although the team placed 26th out of 54 teams in Duluth and 45th out of 49 teams in Grand Forks, Travis Dethlefs, the technology education / engineering instructor at PAS and the mentor / coach for the Arrowbots, said that this placement depends on a variety of factors.
“Our robot was much better in Grand Forks than in Duluth, but we had strong alliances in Duluth which always helps where you end up,” he said. “In Grand Forks, on Friday at lunch time (competition day) we were in the top 10 on the insight page of Blue Alliance. This does not take your rank into consideration, but how well your robot is performing and it was performing very well. ”
The Blue Alliance, is a website where teams can search for new competitions and watch past events via webcasts.
To prepare for the competition, the team faced countless hours of brainstorming ideas for designing, building and programming their robot, Dethlefs said. Bailey Imhoff, PAS sophomore and the team captain for the Arrowbots, said that for her, putting in the time to bring the concept for a robot to life is about seeing the finished product.
“For me, it would be just wanting to see the finished product and see everyone’s hard work come to fruition,” she said. “It has been a very frustrating but exciting experience, being able to learn something more outside of school.
Imhoff said she wanted to join the team after seeing the team perform during conferences while she was in middle school.
“I thought that was the coolest thing I’d seen and just wanted to be a part of something like that,” Imhoff said.
Competition day starts around 8 am, Imhoff said, and the day can be hard and full of pressure because for team members, it is ‘the real deal.’
“After a match we talk and do touch ups to the robot to make it (perform) better,” she said. “We meet with other teams to talk about how we can all work together to win and what the different robots can do.”
The overall experience, Imhoff said, was an amazing opportunity to see the team come together.
“I think it’s amazing how we came together and we did the work to be able to have a running robot,” she said. “All the teams were really nice and even helped us when we needed it and we gave them help in return. Working with different teams was so much fun because we got to see their achievements. ”
The robotics team, Dethlefs said, started at PAS in 2010 and has ranged in membership from year to year, with a 12 student team being the largest.
“Twelve students were our largest team to start the season with and dropped to eight by the end of the season,” he said. “Robotics has a huge time commitment and it’s hard to commit to that.”
Typically, students will spend between 100 to 150 hours during a six-week period after school and on the weekends, working on their robots. The competition details change every year, so preparing early isn’t possible, adding to the challenge. With all of these variables, reminding the team that how you rank isn’t as important as the effort you put into it, Dethlefs said.
“I always tell my team that it doesn’t matter what rank you are in at the end, because that is not a fair judgment of how the robot performed,” he said. “If it did what you set out for it to do then you accomplished the goals set at the beginning of the season. I am very proud of the team because they accomplished everything they set out to have the robot do. They had some trying times and some very frustrating times, but they stuck together and created an amazing robot on a very thin budget. ”