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The 2019 FIRST Robotics season has lifted off

Members from ten different area FIRST Robotics teams, including Badger and Greenbush-Middle River pose for a group photo together following the 2019 FIRST Robotics Kickoff event at Digi-Key in Thief River Falls on January 5. There, the teams learned about this year’s game: “Destination: Deep Space.” (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Some members of the GMR Robotics team enjoy some breakfast before the start of the 2019 FIRST Robotics Kickoff event at Digi-Key on January 5. They are (starting bottom left and working clockwise): Hanna Black, Issie Brockhouse, Piper Sondreal Kamryn Branden, Megan Williamson, and Emily McLean. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

FIRST Robotics teams from all over the world counted down from ten– much like the countdown for a launch into space– waiting to hear about this season’s game. For 10 area robotics teams, including some members of the Badger and Greenbush-Middle River teams, they experienced this countdown at Digi-Key in Thief River Falls on January 5.
Following the countdown, they learned that this year’s game– Destination: Deep Space– would be a trip to space, specifically Planet Primus. Although these team are not actually traveling into space, this game still provides new challenges for teams as they collect samples on Planet Primus before lifting off.
Students and mentors from the Badger and Greenbush-Middle River teams commented on not just this game, but also the start of this robotics season. Some Digi Key representatives also talked about the importance of their company hosting this FIRST Robotics kickoff event and just being part of FIRST Robotics in general. FIRST Robotics founder Dean Kamen also spoke about his inspiration behind the game choice via live video feed from Manchester, N.H.
Badger team coach Val Truscinski figures this year’s game to be the most challenging one she has seen so far.
“It will be interesting to see what our team will come up with for robot design to complete the tasks required to be successful this season,” Truscinski said. “I always look forward to watching our students learn and grow together and as individuals.”
GMR Robotics team member Piper Sondreal thinks this game is going to provide some enjoyment.
“There’s going to be a lot that’s going on, but it’s definitely going to be an exciting game to watch this year,” Sondreal said.
She is interested to how her team excels amongst this game’s challenges.
“I think we can go really far with this game,” Sondreal said.
Digi-Key’s Involvement
Before the kickoff event began, Rick Trontvet, Vice President of Administration at Digi-Key, working with Public Affairs and Legal Compliance for the company, explained why Digi-Key is excited to host this event and to be part of FIRST Robotics.
“We love the idea of the engineering education this provides for students from Northwestern Minnesota,” Trontvet said. “We love the idea that we can be part of that because we are an innovative company that is trying to expand our sales and expand our reach with customers who buy electronic components. And, we just think this (FIRST Robotics) is a natural synergy for us.”
Words from Dean Kamen
The announcement of this year’s game was streamed live from Manchester, N.H.–the base of FIRST Robotics, according to— over the video platform Twitch. Dean Kamen spoke at this kickoff event and explained how he came up with this space-themed game based on a conversation with Buzz Aldrin, one of the three men on the famed Apollo 11 mission– the first to land on the moon back on July 20, 1969, according
Kamen grew up in a generation inspired and motivated by the space race– to land the first people on the moon.
“On the fiftieth anniversary of putting a man on the moon, I think it just seemed totally appropriate to just look back at that, but not sit on our laurels and look back,” Kamen said. “It was to remind ourselves that when you get people organized and motivated by a competition, by the aspiration… you can do incredible things.”
Kamen encouraged those to use what NASA accomplished 50 years ago as an historical reference, but continue to leap forward.
“You all ought to ask yourselves, ‘In 50 years what are you going to be looking back at?’ Kamen said. “… It’s going to be way more spectacular than putting a man on the moon.”
For now, FIRST Robotics teams have a mission to design and build a robot that can withstand and achieve amongst the many obstacles on Planet Primus. The FIRST Robotics build season has lifted off and lands, or finishes, on February 19.
To see the full story, read the January 9 issue of The Tribune in print or online.


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