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Aerie: Students bend their minds to competition

Red Wing High School Robotics includes (front row, from left) Trentin Hokanson, Isek Gorden, Grace Pagel, Amelia Reinitz; (middle) Lucy Fuglestad, Hailey Stewart; (back) coach Don Fricke, Trevor Englund, Casey Witts, Mia Zurawski, Lukas Montgomery, Carter Caddo, Matthew Lundell and Isaiah Parsons.

Editor's note: Aerie is produced by and for Red Wing High School students. The content is the sole responsibility of the students.

Some kids have a mind for math and science. They love to build things and dream of being engineers. But where in a high school can a kid with a passion for engineering find his niche?

Don Fricke is the adviser for Red Wing High School Robotics, an activity Lukas Montgomery describes as a sport of the mind.

Montgomery, a homeschool student who takes part on the team, says that it is popular because it is a competitive activity, but not an athletic one. Students are applying new ideas and expanding in their capacities for mathematical and scientific knowledge — a process that redefines the limit they set for themselves.

For about four years, 9-12 grade students have been meeting after school to grow in their capabilities to build, work as a team, and create engineering magic.

The goal of robotics is, obviously, to build a robot — within six weeks. Team members have specific tasks that require them to focus on one section of the automation. These tasks are divided into five groups: design, mechanical, electrical, software and marketing.

Sophomore Trentin Hokanson works with the electrical group. This means he deals with the wires inside the robot that make the coding function. Meanwhile, that coding is being developed and uploaded to the robot by the software kids. The design group decides what the apparatus will look like and then gives that idea to the mechanical group to build.

Only one robot is built and there is a high level of importance on the communication and teamwork between the groups, team members said.

Finally, the marketing members branch off beyond the production of the robot. Their purpose is more clerical work such as writing a grant to pay for bus service and composing business plans and awards.

A new robot is built each year to carry out a given task with a designated set of skills. For 2017, the final product must pick up gears and hook them on pegs, pick up balls and shoot them into small openings, and lift itself up a hanging rope.

While the building and developing process is fun, team members said they look forward to seeing their finished product in action next to the other robots from teams across the state.

Every year, the robots and their creators compete in Duluth. They work six weeks to produce a machine to compete in a series of games, each only two to three minutes long. After the six weeks have passed, the robot cannot be touched. Red Wing competes this week. The objective is to be in first place and picked in the top alliance to compete in the finals. Success in the finals brings the top team to a National competition in St. Louis. Senior Mia Zurawski says that the state competitions are stressful in themselves with music playing and people cheering.

This exciting weekend in Duluth is not the only opportunity to see the Red Wing Robotics team in action. The students go to local public schools and outreach programs to inform other students about the opportunities within the club. They are also a part of the River City Days parade in the summer in downtown Red Wing.

The various activities and clubs offered at Red Wing High prove that teamwork goes beyond athletics and sports. It is not about winning, but about individuals dedicating themselves towards a common goal. It is about students collaborating with their peers and building relationships to last past graduation.

For more information on the Red Wing High School Robotics team, visit its website:

More information on the competitions can be found here: