Robotics team rocking their way to State

There is a buzz in the robotics lab these days as the Northeast Range Iron Mosquitoes robotics team is heading down to Williams Arena in Minneapolis for the 2022 MSHSL Championship. The event will be held on Saturday, May 7, and Northeast Range’s team 5653 will face off against 35 other schools from around the state.
This year’s robotics team has been the most successful in school history, placing eighth and earning the right to be an alliance captain at the Great Lakes Regional with a 6-3 preliminary round record and forcing a game three in the quarterfinals.
In the Great Northern Regional, 5653 flew to new heights with a 6-2-2 preliminary round record, which was good enough for alliance captain status and the fifth seed.
Their alliance won the quarterfinal match-up, including winning game three by a single point (64-63). Advancing to the semifinals, they fell in game 3 by the closest of margins (66-60) to end their playoff run.
Advancing to the MSHSL Championship for the first time, the Iron Mosquitoes hope to storm onto the scene and cement themselves as a small school robotics powerhouse in Minnesota.
Coach Ryan Lindsay said he’s been impressed with how his teams have competed against much larger school.
“We’re a much young team, we graduated some strong seniors,” said Lindsay. “We have kids from Cook, Ely and Mesabi East and the rest are from Babbitt.”
The young team made it to state in a single class MSHSL activity.
“We ended up with just enough points to be on the bottom edge of people at state,” said Lindsay.
“They had a real good showing at Grand Forks for a young crew.”
Lindsay said there are 36 teams in the state competition to be held May 7 at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
There will be a qualification tournament with the top four scoring winning robot teams picking two other teams to be with them in the semifinals.
“It should be a pretty good competition. There are several teams that went to the world tournament,” said Lindsay.
“There was a team in Ely two years ago and one in North Woods. With Covid happening those teams disintegrated and one kid at Mesabi East, he used to go to our school. It’s open to anyone in the area to be on the team.
“We recruit and we help start teams. The kids in Ely come down a couple times a week and Saturday is a big build day,” said Lindsay.
Robotics gives kids a chance to learn about computer skills, engineering, welding and mechanical design.
“It’s great for kids to have access to these skills, it’s important for future careers,” said Lindsay. “And it’s fun, we’re not just competing against kids in the region, you’re competing against every school in the state. It’s just fun to see how all comes together.”
During the pandemic the NER team built a robot to delivery groceries which gained them national publicity.
A film, “More than Robots,” current playing on Disney Plus, includes the Northeast Range team.
“The students are highlighted as an example of how the program inspired kids to solve problems in the pandemic, later in the film. We are one of three or so teams they mentioned there. It is fun to see Zup’s in a Disney film. The footage of us was taken by our students,” said Lindsay.
Also helping the team is Chris Dougherty, a professional welder, and Walter Harrier, a computer programmer from Cook.
“Other teachers swing by and help, anybody interested in kids. The program is also about connecting kids to mentors. Like welding, you get to work with someone who welds for a living. It’s a really good opportunity for kids.”
The team will be looking for additional sponsors, they have received donations in the past from, Apple, US Bank and Lake Country Power.
“Anyone interested in sponsoring the team can contact Sponsors, depending on support level, can get a logo on our team t-shirt, stickers on robots, merchandise launched in parades, etc. Anything helps!” said Lindsay.