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“Small Town Robot” hits the big screen

Joe Brandmeier (sitting in front), the Greenbush-Middle River Robotics team, GMR Superintendent Tom Jerome (third from left in back row), and a FIRST Robotics representative (fourth from left in back row), pose for a photo together in front of the Roso Theatre in Roseau on August 15 prior to the premiere of “Small Town Robot”, a short documentary film by director and producer Brandmeier highlighting the GMR Robotics team and FIRST Robotics in general. An estimated 225 to 250 people filled the 300-seat theatre to watch this documentary. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

John Novacek looks on as GMR Robotics team drivers Kyle Stauffenecker, and Robert Hlucny drive the team’s robot from this past season, as part of a demonstration prior to the premiere of “Small Town Robot” at the Roso Theatre on August 15. A senior on this past season’s team, Hlucny said this documentary film was “the best way to finish off a good year.” (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Director and producer of “Small Town Robot”, Joe Brandmeier prepares to catch a cube dropped by the GMR robot during the demonstration prior to the film’s premiere on August 15. From this documentary, Brandmeier hopes people learned what the FIRST Robotics program represents, including the lesson that “by helping others, you helps yourself.” (photo by Ryan Bergeron)


A perspective video moving along the middle of a country highway on a spring day in northwest Minnesota– bits of snow still covering the ground in the ditches and fields– flashes on the screen, as Greenbush-Middle River Robotics team mentor and parent Doug Hlucny says, “It’s kind of a lonely, but desolate area.”
As much of the footage that follows shows, many great things are occurring for one particular team living and working in this “lonely and desolate” area– GMR Gator Robotics, Team #5172.
On August 15, after GMR Robotics team drivers drove their robot out front of the Roso Theatre, an estimated 225 to 250 people filled the 300-seat theatre in Roseau, Minn., to catch a glimpse into the great things going on within Team #5172 on the big screen, as part of the premiere of “Small Town Robot”, a documentary film produced and directed by Joe Brandmeier. Several individuals reacted to this film and the story it told about more than just Team #5172.
Asked for his immediate reaction, GMR Superintendent Tom Jerome, enjoying the film, mentioned a pride in his district and every student involved in the program, and expressed appreciation for the team’s mentors.
“It’s (the film’s) a good reminder again when we focus on our kids and making things happen for our kids. It’s what our district is about,” Jerome said. “It’s what we need to aspire to be. So, I think the film was outstanding.”
A senior driver on this past season’s GMR team, Robert Hlucny appeared in the film throughout, as he and his family’s relationship with the team is highlighted. He said he doesn’t like hearing himself on camera, but, despite that, enjoyed the film.
“It’s really the best way to finish off a good year,” Hlucny said, before heading off to Minnesota-Duluth for school on August 20. “It’s like one final recap of all of our successes—some of the failures– but mainly the successes. To see all that over again on screen was really cool.”
Coach Mary Anderson expressed how emotional she was from watching this film, particularly how it brought together all the parts that made her team the success story it is.
“He was able to pick out, out of all us and all of the footage that he took, the pieces that I think show the community of 5172, with the support of Greenbush and Middle River,” Anderson said. “Just (with) the whole thing, he shows that we really embrace the fact that it’s more than a robot.”
From his efforts, he hoped those who watched his film discovered what the FIRST Robotics program is all about.
“I hope they take away what that program represents, which is make (an) alliance, cooperate, be a professional all the time, and (learn the lesson that) by helping others, you help yourself,” Brandmeier said.
Brandmeier had some DVD’s of this film for sale following the premiere and mentioned how this documentary would be featured in film festivals throughout the country, giving more individuals more opportunities to catch this film for the first time, or watch it again.
It doesn’t matter if one lives or goes to school in a lonely and desolate area. It’s about making the most of what one has, a lesson Robert Hlucny hopes people have learned or will learn about his team after watching them on screen.
“It doesn’t take an extremely wealthy team to be successful,” Hlucny said. “All it takes is grit and hard work.”
To see the complete story, read the August 22 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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