Senior 2526 team member Alex Haidle (right) discusses his experience this weekend.
The Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center is bustling this weekend. Starting Friday and going through Saturday, more than 120 high school robotics teams from across the country are gearing up, computing, and battling each other in two separate regional tournaments.
Think of it as Medieval Times meets Star Trek while competing in a Gladiator-like arena.
Event organizer Mark Lawrence knows not to take the competitiveness in these kids lightly.
“We really found a sweet spot with the students in schools. They weren’t the kids that are necessarily ever going to play football or basketball or something like that, but they’re very competitive,” said Lawrence.
Nate Janzig, a senior at Hermantown High School, says preparing and participating in the battles aren’t just fun, they’re stepping stones in life.
“This is what we are. This is what we do. It’s fun, and I wait all year to come do this,” said Janzig.
Janzig says although the event just a couple days long, the competition actually began weeks ago.
“We all have the common goal. We all worked 6 weeks. We all worked as hard as we could, and to see what we’ve been working on finally unravel…we’re actually doing it now,” said Janzig.
Even after weeks of preparation, many teams are going through last-minute details just before the start of each battle.
Alex Haidle, a member of Crimson Robotics #2526 representing Maple Grove High School, says he’s communicating with other teams so that everyone is on the same page.
“We’re running through a game plan with our alliance partners…trying to get an idea what we are going to do once the buzzer starts, what controls are we hitting…that kind of a thing,” said Haidle.
As each match nears, emotions climb.
“I’m pumped. Yeah, we’re pumped and ready to go,” said Haidle.
But Haidle says the pressure doesn’t become overbearing.
“I always thought the energy outweighs the pressure, because you walk up to the stands and you here your team cheering for you and you see everybody. Everybody is just so happy to see you…it just makes the energy a lot better,” said Haidle.
“Everyone is cheering for you or against and you’re just…you gotta take all that emotion and run with it,” said Janzig.
Like many of their favorite athletes, the kids in this arena are hoping to walk out champions.
“I guess it’s like winning the state tournament or something for hockey…I feel the same exact thing. You go out and you’re just the best out there. I can’t compare it to anything,” said Janzig.
Both regional tournaments come to an end on Saturday. Then, six teams will be sent to the national robotics tournament in St. Louis, Missouri this spring.
The event is open to the public and is free to attend.