Waconia’s RoboCats robotics team is heading to Detroit after cleaning up in Duluth. (Submitted photo)

The RobCats, Waconia’s high school level robotics team, have engineered themselves a spot in the “world” competitions.

The team will travel to Detroit April 25-28 for the 2018 FIRST Robotics championship, competing against 500-600 teams worldwide. World competitions also are going on in Houston to make the championships more manageable in terms of size and geographically for teams to travel.

The RoboCats earned their way to worlds by reaching the finals at the Lake Superior Regional held March 7-10 in Duluth, Minn. Waconia placed 8th individually among more than 60 teams regionally and snatched a worlds berth when the 2nd place team that had secured a spot in the finals selected the RoboCats to compete with them.

Alliances are critical in robotics games, with teams working together to complete an assigned task as quickly and efficiently as possible. In this case, teams of robots collected, moved and hoisted cubes to a raised platform, competing head-to-head to tilt the platform in their favor.

Team member Kevin Zheng said he and his teammates were wary entering regional competitions (they also competed in Grand Forks, N.D.), but they soon realized that they had designed and built a very functional robot in the prescribed six-week time frame before competitions.

The RoboCats also assembled a very cohesive team, with two operators – Eric Schmieg and Tyler Anderley – guiding their robot. Having two robot drivers is unusual but not unheard of, according to teammate Ryan Liebsch. “These guys have been around a while and work very well together,” he said.

Liesbsch is a member of RoboCats scout team, which did a good job of analyzing other teams to form successful alliances, according to their coach and mentors.

Coach Peter Potter also was impressed with the team’s design, strategizing and the way they spoke to judges about their robot, which earned them a special Innovation and Control Award, sponsored by Rockwell Automation.

“The robotics program is more than creating an idea,” Potter said. “This award reflects the students’ abilities to not only design the robot, but also to articulate their approach.”

Team members are spending the weeks before worlds tweaking their robot. “Lighter, faster, stronger quicker” is the theme.

The RoboCats also are raising money to help fund their trip to the “Motor City,” reaching out to local businesses and organizations. Watch for special promotions at Culver’s, Mocha Monkey and other locations in April.

And if you can’t make it to Detroit and want to see some robotics competitions, visit FIRST Robotics – The Blue Alliance website -- – to view videos.

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