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Wendy Reuer, Published November 12 2010

Robotics team advances to regional contest

SABIN, Minn. - In less than three minutes, the REACH Robotics team has to show the judges and fellow teams that the robot they built can maneuver a course, pick up “eggs” and score the most points.

“There is pressure, lots of pressure,” said Caleb Wood of Ashville.

For the team members of REACH Robotics, the pressure is nothing they can’t handle. In fact, they handled it so well at the October Bison BEST robotics competition that they finished third and will advance to the regional competition in Arkansas in December.

BEST, which stands for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology, is hosted by North Dakota State University.

The 14-member REACH Robotics team is made up of home-schooled students from throughout the Red River Valley on both sides of the river, such as Naomi Walter, one of only three girls on the team, who travels from Pelican Rapids to Sabin weekly.

It is there at the home of Nik Kukert that the team built their robot, LEVI, from a grouping of parts sent by the annual competition officials.

As the robot’s controller, Wood is just one of two team members allowed on the floor during competition.

REACH CEO and leader Christian Roise explains that all the members have different roles as a team but all are equally important – and each member gets a chance to operate the robot during competition.

“It is challenging, but we like it,” Roise said. “It incorporates a lot more than just building a robot.”

Some members focused on the building of LEVI while others control the notebook (a log of their work, which is also judged in competition), and some focus on driving strategy or even the team website.

The team was given about six weeks to build a robot and program it to perform this year’s competition task, “Total Recall.” The robot must be able to work as though it is in a factory, helping sort and move defective or recalled items.

At Bison BEST, the team not only took home third place overall but second place in the robotics competition. It also won the Best Website and Most Robust Robot awards.

Team members range in age from ninth grade to seniors and include about 28 percent of the high-school-aged home-schooled students in this area.

As a team made up of home-schooled students, it was the only one at Bison BEST not part of a traditional school. The REACH team didn’t have a band to play for them like some schools, but they did have a mascot: a bunny.

“Home-schoolers have a reputation of being very quiet and reserved,” said spirit and sportsmanship team leader David Mueller of Fargo.

But at Bison BEST, the REACH Robotics team proved them wrong, as the team showed its spirit at Bison BEST, winning the spirit and sportsmanship award.

If the team advances past the regional competition, they will move on to a national competition to be held in 2011 in Texas.

For more information about the team, visit www.reachrobotics.org.

Team members

Bailey Carlson, Caleb Ingebretson, Jesse Ingebretson, Nik Kukert, David Mueller, Mikayla Perrault, Christian Roise, Charlie Shorma, Kara Syvrud, David Ugelstad, Tom Ugelstad, Dustin Walter, Naomi Walter and Caleb Wood


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530