The Free Press, Mankato, MN

St. Peter news

April 2, 2013

St. Peter robotics team bound for national tournament

ST PETER — St. Peter’s Nordic Storm team has qualified for the national FIRST Robotics competition again this year, and NASA is picking up the $5,000 registration fee.

Last year was the first time the team had made it to nationals, and coach Deb Johnson described the achievement as a “heart-stopping” surprise. This year’s heart-stopping surprise came with the award the team won.

At the 10,000 Lakes FIRST regional competition at the University of Minnesota, Nordic Storm competed against 62 other teams and was knocked out in the semi-finals. But the team won the Engineering Inspiration award, which qualified it again to compete in the St. Louis, Mo., tournament at the end of April. The award also comes with a $5,000 grant for registration.

“The kids are super excited,” Johnson said.

The Engineering Inspiration award signifies the “strong engineering design process the team followed by prototyping, using computer-aided drafting, and machining their parts to build a 120-pound robot — in addition to the many hours of outreach the team completes each year to encourage youth in the area to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” Johnson said.

The student-led Nordic Storm’s robot this year is nicknamed Ratatoskr, meaning “drill-tooth,” after a Norse mythological squirrel.

“The judges were very impressed with their design,” Johnson said. “It’s a sight to behold, and it really catches people’s eye because it’s such a unique design.”

For this year’s challenge, “Ultimate Ascent,” two metal-frame pyramids were placed in the 27-foot by 54-foot playing field. Two of the playing field walls had slots worth different points that the robots had to shoot Frisbees through. The goal worth the most points was on top of either pyramid.

Most robots were launching Frisbees from the ground level. But Nordic Storm’s strategy this year was to focus heavily on the robot’s climbing ability, Johnson said.

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