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Inaugural Swamp Fest brings seven robotics teams together

Swamp Fest students posed together for a group photo at the Greenbush Race Park. This inaugural event, which ran August 2-5 in Greenbush, brought in 67 students and, including adults, a total of 106 people from seven different robotics teams. (photo by Val Truscinski)

Ryan Hlucny tosses a bean bag during a pick up game of corn hole at Swamp Fest out at the Russ and Mary Anderson property off Highway 11 in rural Greenbush. As part of entry fees from the Swamp Fest’s 32-team corn hole tournament, the robotics teams raised $1,300 for the Roseau County Shriners. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

These two Edina robotics team members enjoy a ride atop one of the Roseau County Shriners snowmobiles along a ditch off Highway 11 at the Russ and Mary Anderson property in rural Greenbush. Swamp Fest students did other activities unrelated to robots, including a dance, a 32-team corn hole tournament, and a visit to the Greenbush Race Park to catch some racing action on Saturday night (August 4) to name a few. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Have you ever opened a box of puzzle pieces to find that it has pieces from numerous different puzzles?
Students from seven different robotics teams broke into small groups at the Russ and Mary Anderson property off Highway 11 in rural Greenbush on August 3. They each received a challenge to put together a different 200-piece jigsaw puzzle, but with a twist. Each teams’ box had pieces from numerous different puzzles. So, the teams had to get up, and talk and work with one another to put their puzzles together, a lesson on the FIRST Robotics program’s idea of “coopertition”. As FIRST describes it, “coopertition” is showing “unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition.”
Sarah Dignan of Warroad enjoyed working through activities such as this one, giving her the opportunity to meet what she called “amazing people” who are now “lifelong friends.”
“I love the puzzle activity, because I got to work with people I hadn’t previously met to build a puzzle,” Dignan said, “but the catch was that all the other groups also had the pieces my group needed, so we needed to work with them and trade to get what we needed.”
Students from seven different robotics teams united in Greenbush– spending most of their time at the Anderson property– from August 2-5 to build on established relationships and create new ones at the inaugural Swamp Fest. Along the way, they also took in many different activities– both of the robotics and non-robotics variety– and lessons that they can take with them to their robotics teams this upcoming season.
Students from the two Gator teams– Greenbush-Middle River (#5172) and Badger (#3750)– several other Minnesota teams, including the Green Machine from Edina (#1816), F.R.E.D  from Warroad (#2883), Kaotic Robotics from Frazee (#4539), and the Robettes from Visitation School–an all-girls school in Mendota Heights (#2177) — and a North Dakota team, the Thunder from Hatton-Northwood (#876) attended the inaugural event. The event brought in 67 students and, including adults, a total of 106 people.
GMR team mentor Russ Anderson said this all really started last year when the GMR and Edina teams went out to dinner following their alliance’s loss in the state tournament finals. At that meeting, Anderson said Edina expressed interest in coming to Gator country.
“They wanted to come up to Greenbush-Middle River and learn how to build a robot and I said, ‘Great. We want to learn how to become a team,’ Anderson said. “And then it (the first meeting) went really, really good, so more teams heard about it and here we are to seven teams.”
Yoji Shimizu, a FIRST Robotics MC and mentor and one of the Swamp Fest organizers highlighted the Edina team’s visit to Gator country last year, known as “Swamp Machine”. During this visit, the Edina team worked with the two Gator teams, an encounter that provided them all the chance to form new friendships.
“When the idea of doing it again kind of came about, I think Russ and Mary (Anderson) and Laurie (Shimizu) and myself really thought about kind of how could we increase the impact of the event to reach more teams and to create even more kinds of collaborations and relationships,” Yoji said. “So, the intent this year was really to try and bring in some additional teams that we wanted to come here and kind of experience this whole event.”
From August 2-5, students engaged in various activities. They attended different trainings, such as Fire/Grain Bin Safety at the Greenbush Fire Hall, Safety for Life at the GMR School, and CPR and First Aid at Anderson’s. They also did large group activities, such as the puzzle challenge and moon landing challenge, where students had to rate the most critically needed items– from one to fifteen– that they would need to take with them after their space ship landed 200 miles from the rendezvous point on the moon with the mother ship due to mechanical difficulties.
They also did small breakout stations, such as “Welding”, “Railcar Design”, and “More than Robot Work”. Students had the chance to participate in another small group activity– a “Meet and Greet (of) the 2018 Robots”. During this station, teams showed and talked about their robots from the past year, highlighting what did and didn’t work and if they could do it again, what piece or part would they redo.
“One, I hope the kids have socialized and met some new kids, get to understand different kids and how they approach life,” said Andy Paulson, lead mentor of the Frazee team, when asked what he hopes his team takes from this visit. “Two, it’s good to have some first aid and safety things that they’ve learned, and then the team building activities have been awesome for the kids to bring back to our team and enhance the level of our team.”
Swamp Fest provided students the chance to put the puzzle pieces of FIRST Robotics– the program’s core values– together. It also gave students the opportunity to grow both as individuals and as teams, and enjoy themselves with fellow robotics students.
To see the full story, read the August 8 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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