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Gator robotics teams make noise at World Championship

GMR Robotics drivers Kyle Stauffenecker and Ryan Hlucny focus in during match on day two of qualification matches on April 26 at the FIRST Robotics World Championship. The GMR Robotics team finished as the top ranked team in the 68-team Carson Sub-Division, becoming just the second team in Minnesota FIRST Robotics history to capture the top ranking in a sub-division at the World Championship. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Members of both the GMR and Badger Robotics teams united into one section to cheer on their teams— both on the same alliance— during the Carson Sub-Division playoff round. The GMR-captained alliance fell in the finals of this sub-division to see its World Championship journey come to an end. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Surrounded by his fellow drive team members, GMR Robotics team driver Ryan Hlucny cups his hands to his face as he looks up at the scoreboard to see if his team won the second match in the Carson Sub-Division to earn a spot to the Einstein Round with the other five fellow sub-division winners. The Gator lost this match and the following tie-breaker match in a best-of-three series to see its World Championship journey come to a close on April 27. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Emma VonEnde meets with FIRST Robotics judges about the team’s robot in the Badger Robotics team’s pit area at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

An alliance including both the Greenbush-Middle River robotics team and the Badger robotics team swept its quarterfinal and semifinal opponents, and won the first match in its best-of-three finals series in the Carson Sub-Division at the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

Then, Greenbush-Middle River Gator Robotics team driver Ryan Hlucny looked up at the scoreboard screen following the second match to see if his alliance clinched a spot in the next round, the Einstein Round. As he looked up at the screen, he put both his hands around his mouth, almost in a praying motion, as he stood beside his fellow drive team members.

The scoreboard showed a 97-94 loss, setting up a tie-breaking final match to decide the winner of the Carson Sub-Division and a spot in the Einstein Round with the other five sub-division winners. The GMR-led alliance, including the Badger alliance as a fourth member, lost the tie-breaking match 100-92 to see its four-day journey at the FIRST Robotics World Championship at Detroit’s Cobo Center come to end on April 27.

“We got stopped. We got stopped two matches in a row,” Ryan Hlucny said following the loss. “… (The opposing alliance’s) defense is what crushed us. But, we did the best that we could against that defense and that’s pretty much it.”

Tears were shed and hugs were shared following the loss, but later members of both Gator robotics teams talked about the journey and how proud they were of what their respective teams accomplished in the process.

Greenbush-Middle River Robotics Team Head Coach Mary Anderson shed some tears beside some of her team members. She said these tears were a combination of many things, including disappointment from a competitive side and compassion for what the team members were initially feeling after the loss.

But, that doesn’t mean that she didn’t appreciate what her team accomplished.

“I wanted to comfort them in hopes to reassure them and start to redirect them to their accomplishments; whether it is the coach, mentor, teacher, mother figure, or friend in me I want them to know that I feel it also but I want them to cherish the entire picture,” Coach Anderson said via email.

The GMR team reached this sub-division opportunity by finishing 9-1 in qualification matches, including 4-1 on the first day and 5-0 on the second day to earn the top ranking in the 68-team Carson Sub-Division. According to Coach Mary Anderson, her team was just the second team in Minnesota FIRST Robotics history to earn a number one division ranking at the World Championship.

This FIRST Robotics World Championship, themed this year as “Deep Space”, included six sub-divisions of 68 teams each for a total of 408 teams. The stands were filled and covered by a rainbow of colors on each side throughout much of the World Championship.

Of these 408 teams, 26 U.S. states and 14 countries were represented. Meeting a variety of people from different parts of the country and world was an experience not lost on a local robotics team member.

Competing in his first World Championship, Jack Burkel described the experience as fun, crazy, exciting, and nerve-racking, but also highlighted what this World Championship opportunity provided him and his team members beyond the competition side.

“To be at a Worlds competition with other teams from all over the place… It’s just cool to see them and to see that they speak different languages,” Burkel said at his hotel following the first day of qualification matches. “It’s just insane to be open to those different cultures and those different kinds of people, and those different teams. So really it’s just a cool experience all together.”

This opportunity also allowed these local teams to see how they match up with the better teams in the country and world. After just day one of qualification matches, both teams had experienced successes. The Greenbush-Middle River team ranked fourth and the Badger team eighth in the Carson Sub-Division following day one of qualification matches.

“We’re getting to meet a lot of the top elite teams in the world right now, so it’s just really fun to talk to some of those guys and get to know a lot,” GMR team driver Kyle Stauffenecker said at the team hotel following the first day of qualification matches.

As for the Badger team, it finished 4-1 after the first day of qualification matches, but ran into some trouble on the second day of qualification matches. On this second day, the Badger team finished 0-5, losing three matches by five points or less. The Badger team ended 4-6 overall and thirty-first overall in the Carson Sub-Division.

“We come here and we start our first day off really good, and the second day didn’t go as well as planned,” team driver Kennedy Truscinski said. “But we ended up on the first alliance with our other Gators (GMR team) and it was an awesome journey.”

Both Gator teams have experienced their successes this season, deep into the World Championship at the Cobo Center. They felt some initial disappointment with coming so close to advancing further, but appreciated the journey and all those who helped made it possible.

Speaking of the journey, Badger Robotics Team Head Coach Val Truscinski described how much this World Championship experience meant to her team.

“It was an amazing experience just to get here. And then after our first day of competition we were sitting in the top eight and they were just beaming. It was such a great experience for them,” Coach Truscinski said following the end of the World Championship. “We had a tough day yesterday with a zero and five day, so being selected even as the fourth person to be on (an) alliance was a phenomenal experience for all these kids involved.”

But the season isn’t over yet. The Minnesota State High School League Tournament takes place at Williams Arena and Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota Campus in Minneapolis on May 18, and both Gators team will be there.

To see the complete story, read the May 1 issue of The Tribune in print or online at

1 Comment

  1. John Shontz on May 3, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Way to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Very proud of all of you! Win at state, Badger!!!!

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