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GMR Robotics makes most of return to competition: Wins Northern Lights Regional, qualifies for 2022 FIRST Championship in Houston


Greenbush-Middle River Robotics team members Ray Tarala and Lauren Stenberg pose together next to the team robot at the FIRST Robotics Northern Lights Regional in Duluth, officially held March 2 to March 5. This marked the team’s first competition in just over two years. (photo used with permission)

The GMR Robotics team poses as a group after winning the FIRST Robotics Northern Lights Regional on March 5 in Duluth, qualifying the team for the 2022 FIRST Robotics Championship in Houston, April 20-23. Pictured are (L-R): Front: Holly Wiskow, Rhiana Utter, Brylie Kjersten, Jozie Stohs, and Lauren Stenberg; Back: Aaron Kvien (mentor), Mary Anderson (mentor), Riley Sovde (mentor), Sawyer Strand, Chuck Strand (mentor), Francis Cudnik, Ray Tarala, Russ Anderson (mentor), Steven Hlucny (mentor), Landon Nelson, Berlyn Burkel, Brian Utter (mentor), John Langaas (mentor), and Ryan Hlucny (mentor). (photo used with permission)

February 26-29, 2020 at the Great Northern Regional from the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. That was the last time and place Gator Robotics, Team 5172, competed in a FIRST Robotics event. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, halting the 2020 season permanently and preventing the team from competing in any FIRST competitions in 2021.

Bring on 2022 and Team 5172 was competing in its first competition in just over two years— the Northern Lights Regional, held officially from March 2 to March 5 from the DECC Arena/Edmund Fitzgerald Exhibit Hall in Duluth, Minn. The team made the most of its return, winning the regional event. With this win, the team punched its ticket to the 2022 FIRST Championship, to be held in Houston, April 20-23.

The team went into its first competition in just over two years with zero expectations, but high hopes. The students arrived at the regional Wednesday night, having little knowledge of what to expect from it, but came out of it on that Sunday with “smiles,” team mentor Mary Anderson said.

“The growth that this group of students and mentors made over the weekend was seen on the competition field, in the pits, in the stands, and in every action they did,” Anderson wrote. “We as a team could not be prouder to represent the communities of Greenbush, Middle River, Badger, and Karlstad.”

At the Northern Lights Regional, Team 5172 ended qualification matches with a record of 8-1-0 and ranked one. The team chose to align with Team 5913, Patriotics, out of Pequot Lakes, Minn., and Team 2502, Talon Robotics, out of Eden Prairie, Minn. Team 5172’s alliance dominated the other alliances and in the end won the event.

To see the complete story, read the March 9 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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