The Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus teams placed first and second, respectively, in the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference Championship tournament Friday, Oct. 29, in Upsala.

This year's game required robots to pick up power cells (foam dodgeballs) from around the playing field and put these pieces into designated goals for points. With enough power cells, the team moves on to stage two where they interact with a rotating control panel for extra points.

Finally, at the end of the round, the teams attempt to hoist their 100- to 120-pound robots off the playing field on a pivoting balance bar for bonus points. A large number of bonus points are awarded for each robot that can successfully climb off the ground, as well as an additional bonus if the balance bar is level. These bonuses often become a deciding factor in which side wins the 3-v-3 match.

At the Oct. 29 event, Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes each competed in six qualification matches. At the end of qualifications, Pequot Lakes was ranked first with five wins and one loss; Pine River-Backus was holding third with four wins and two losses.

A random set of six teams plays each 3-vs-3 match in qualifications, so Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus played together on the same side and won one of their last qualification matches together, with both teams successfully hoisting their robots at the end for the match bonus points netting the win.

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Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus then competed on opposite sides for the championship finals. In the final match, Pequot Lakes' alliance prevailed to take home first place. Pine River-Backus had also climbed from a ranking of third to second place.

There were 17 teams from 16 schools in the event, which was hosted by Upsala High School by the UC-Botics team under the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference, a regional association of Greater Minnesota teams with 30 member schools. Pine River-Backus is one of the founding members.

Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes are registered members of the multinational FIRST Robotics Competition. Every year in January, FIRST announces a new game for which the teams must build a compatible robot. The game takes place on a 50-foot field with three teams on one team competing against another team of three.

To prep for the annual competition, teams attend FIRST events as well as optional competitions to test their robots.

The 2021 event was a replay/continuation of the 2020 game, which was interrupted by COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Pine River-Backus' 2020-2021 team included Maranda Altepeter, Camryn Good and Alexa Tuchtenhagen, along with coaches Mike Shetka and Andrew Rudlang. Additional adult mentors included Tony Andrys, Ryan Hunt, Jake Shetka and Les McCoy.