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Host Iron Mosquitos take first at Robotics Championship

by Parker Loew

The Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference Championship (NMRC), which was hosted in Babbitt over the weekend, ended fittingly with the Iron Mosquitos taking first place.

While it was an off-season tournament, it was the first tournament win for the Iron Mosquotos and signs of what may be to come heading into the regular season.

“It’s our first tournament win. It was an incredible experience to be a part of a winning alliance,” said Ryan Lindsay, head coach of the Iron Mosquitos.

An alliance consists of three teams with whom you compete with against other alliances.

“Lots of competitive sporting events are winner-takes-all.  In robotics there are always three winners,” said Lindsay.

Alliances are formed based on preliminary qualification rounds, and often alliances are mixed up from tournament to tournament.

If you make enemies with your opponent in one week, it could come back to haunt you in other tournaments.

“You really need to maintain relationships with all the teams,” said Lindsay. “You might beat a team this time, but then you might play with them the next time.”

Though it was an off-season tournament, 17 of the 32 teams in the Iron Mosquitos conference showed up.

“This was a huge confidence booster for the upcoming season,” said Lindsay. “It feels really good because there’s some quality teams in this conference that showed up.”

While winning is great, it isn’t everything in robotics, and collaboration and communication are needed between teams.

“These tournaments are set up to emphasize sportsmanship and helping each other, you need to collaborate to succeed in these events,” said Lindsay. “It’s just an overall great environment.”

Lindsay got the chance to host the event last year at around this time and eagerly jumped on the opportunity.

While there were challenges to setting the event up and making sure everything went smoothly, Lindsay was very happy with the outcome and hopes to do more in the future.

“The public often thinks robotics is a remote-controlled Lego car performing activities, we wanted to show people around here it is more than that,” said Lindsay.

The Iron Mosquitos along with volunteers worked hard all week to get the Babbitt gymnasium ready to host the event, having to bring in all the equipment needed for the special robot arena.

“We had people from Grand Forks to Alexandria to the Twin Cities all come up and help set up, it was great,” said Lindsay.

On top of getting the gymnasium ready for the event, the Iron Mosquitos also needed to prepare their robots to be competition-ready.

“You get eight weeks to build them (the robots). A lot of our design process is in the first one to two weeks, then we make the robots in our shop. We do it all ourselves,” said Tuuli Koivisto, a team member of the Iron Mosquitos.

The matches between teams looked chaotic at times this weekend, but only for the uninitiated.

“The first 15 seconds of a match is completely autonomous and pre-coded,” said Koivisto. “The next 45 seconds are teleoperated, and the robots are being controlled. We use an Xbox controller to control ours.”

Robots from each team need to be designed within certain predetermined parameters, but each team’s robot is unique based on what design the team building the robot thinks will perform the best.

“Ours is a swerve drive, which means we can move it in any direction and spin it around,” said Koivisto.

The swerve drive strategy was a winning one and helped lead the Iron Mosquitos to a first place finish at the NMRC Championship.

They were fifth place heading into the second day, and were happy with their placement and performance, but were thrilled to pull out the victory on the final day and receive validation for their hard work.

The Iron Mosquitos want to thank everyone who helped with the event and was very thankful for all the donations received, including the “very nice” donation from the Ely Rotary Club.

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