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GMR to help host growing FIRST Robotics Great Northern Regional

The two Gator Robotics teams— Badger and Greenbush-Middle River— pose for a photo as one after they, along with a team from Fargo, N.D., formed an alliance that captured the Great Northern Regional Championship at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., back on March 16, 2019. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Plenty of force, Star Wars type force that is, will descend upon Grand Forks when a total of 60 high school FIRST Robotics team from near and far arrive at the Alerus Center for the third annual Great Northern Regional, February 26-29. The Great Northern Regional Planning committee is hosting this event, including mentors from Team # 5172 out of Greenbush-Middle River (Minn.), # 876 out of Northwood, N.D., # 4539 out of Frazee, Minn., and # 2883 out of Warroad.

“(I’m looking forward to) seeing everybody and hoping that more people, new people come, so that we can make an impact on them and they can see the opportunities for kids,” said Mary Anderson, Team #5172 Coach and Great Northern Regional Planning Committee member.

Speaking of more people, in its third year, this event will include 60 teams, an increase from the 47 teams in year one and 52 teams in year two. These 60 teams, including both students and engineering and technical mentors, hail from North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Manitoba, Canada.

At this Week One FIRST Robotics regional event, these high school robotics teams will showcase the hard work they put in to designing and building an original robot to take on this year’s space-related game, Infinite Recharge. Teams began this process after hearing about the game on January 4. To learn more about this year’s game, visit

Following regional qualification matches on February 28 and 29, the top eight teams choose what teams to form alliances with to compete in the playoff matches. Following alliance selection, the eight alliances of three teams each battle it out for a Great Northern Regional Championship title and an automatic trip to the FIRST Robotics World Championship, the first held in Houston, Texas, April 15-18 and the second in Detroit, Mich., April 28-May 2.

Teams can also earn trips to the World Championship by earning certain recognitions, including the Engineering Inspiration Award, the Chairman’s Award, and the Rookie All-Star award. A total of 14 team awards are presented at this event, judged by professionals in various areas. This year’s judges include individuals from Marvin Windows and Doors, Digi-Key, the University of North Dakota, John Deere, and potentially Scheels.

The event will also present other awards. Team #5172 coaches and Great Northern Planning Committee members Russ and Mary Anderson will present the Volunteer of the Year Award. The event also recognizes the FIRST Robotics Competition Dean’s List Award, an award nominated on by mentors that recognizes the leadership and dedication of a selected tenth or eleventh grade student, according to This event also includes the presentation of the Woodie Flowers Award, an award nominated on by students that recognizes an outstanding mentor.

Outside the competition, this event will include team workshops, FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, and FIRST Tech Challenge demonstrations, and Scholarship Rows and Technology Rows (college and job fairs).

On February 28, Vice President of Strategy and Design at Marvin Windows and Doors, Christine Marvin, will speak at the VIP Luncheon, held from 12:00 pm to 1 pm— an event that invites those who may not be as familiar with FIRST to learn what it’s all about. Also at this luncheon event, student ambassadors take attendees around the regional event to show them what FIRST has to offer.

Two others will speak at this regional, both at the opening ceremonies, taking place from 8:30 am to 9:00 pm on February 28 and 29 just prior to qualification matches on each day. Minnesota State Senator Mark Johnson will speak at Friday’s opening ceremonies event and North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler at Saturday’s opening ceremonies event.

The activities at this year’s regional event would not be possible without the volunteers and sponsors. This year’s regional will include a total of 175 volunteer workers.

“The thing I look forward to (about this event) is all the people that we’ve met throughout the years,” said Russ Anderson. “… It takes about 170 volunteers to run it, and they’ve become your friends. And so you look at the list of who’s coming back and that’s always fun to see… who’s all doing what this year.”

To see the complete story, read the February 19 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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