Pine River-Backus robotics team takes seventh

PR-B's team competed among nearly 60 other teams.

PRB robotics.jpg
The Pine River-Backus High School robotics team, "Backwoods Engineers," made up of Alexa Tuchtenhagen, Camryn Good, Maranda Altepeter and Shannon Newbold, won seventh place at the Duluth FIRST Robotics competition March 2-5, 2022. Pictured with them are coaches Mike Shetka and Andrew Rudlang, with Olivia Anderson who managed the team's media.
Contributed / Andrew Rudlang

PINE RIVER — The Pine River-Backus High School robotics team attended the Lake Superior Regional competition and came home with a seventh place finish out of 58 attending teams.

The event ran March 2-5, put on by FIRST Upper Midwest at the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center. FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." FUM is a regional arm of the FIRST Robotics Competition, which is the top-level multinational organization that manages the high school level competition.

This year's challenge was "Rapid React," presented by the Boeing Company. Registered teams were given a short number of weeks to build a complete robot from scratch that could retrieve "cargo" (oversized inflated tennis balls) and score points by placing the "cargo" into an upper or lower goal. The upper goal was almost 9 feet off the ground, requiring teams to build a mechanism that could throw the "cargo" in a similar manner to making a shot into a basketball hoop.

The second challenge given to teams was to hoist their robot off the ground and attempt to traverse rungs of a "hanger," where each rung was progressively higher off the ground. Each rung was worth a successively higher numbers of points.

Robots can be almost as large as a washing machine and weigh well over 100 pounds, making the task a significant challenge.


Teams compete in short 2.5 minute matches in groups of three vs. three (known as "Alliances"). Regional-level events consist of a series of practice matches, followed by qualification matches, followed by a series of finals to declare the event champions.

The Pine River-Backus team, known as the Backwoods Engineers (FRC team #3294), made it through the qualification matches with seven wins and two losses, which resulted in them becoming the captains of the seventh place alliance where they teamed up with "Trojan Robotics" (FRC team #2264) from Plymouth and the "Ultimate Protection Squad" (FRC team #1675) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Their alliance was pitted against the second place alliance where they narrowly lost a best two-out-of-three, which prevented them from moving up any higher within the final event rankings.

The PR-B team's robot, nicknamed "Carlos" was built and operated by high school students Alexa Tuchtenhagen, Camryn Good, Maranda Altepeter and Shannon Newbold. Good piloted the robot during the competition as the team's primary driver.

Coaches Mike Shetka and Andrew Rudlang guided the team with help from team mentors Jake Shetka, Tony Andrys and Cairyn Andrys. Olivia Anderson joined the team this year taking on multiple media duties, including photography, videography and social media management.

The team thanks their primary sponsors US Bank and Maxson-Van Eps Post #368, as well as the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference and the Pine River-Backus School for enabling their participation in the FIRST Robotics events. The team also expresses gratitude to the many volunteers who helped organize and operate the event.

Additionally, the team gives special thanks to the Cannon Falls "Bomb Botz" (FRC team #6217) who shared their team scouting app, data and resources.

The team will play "Rapid React" again in the fall of 2022 at the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference Championship event and will appear at Pine River-Backus's "Family Fun Night" on March 18.


Andrew Rudlang is a Pine River-Backus robotics team coach.

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