North High School robotics team to compete in championship for the first time

submitted photo • The North High School robotics team was one of three teams on the winning alliance at the Northern Lights Regional event held in Duluth in March, which secured its spot at the FIRST Championship to be held April 28 in Detroit, Michigan. The team also competed in the Medtronic Foundation Regional event in Minneapolis last month. It is common for teams to attend more than one regional event if they can afford to do so.

submitted photo • This year the Bionic Polars had to design a robot that could pick up cubes and move them around an arena, as well as climb to the top of a scale.

The North High School robotics team, the Bionic Polars, have qualified for the FIRST Robotics Championship tournament for the first time, following a successful regional competition in Duluth held in early March. 

The team’s 32 members will be competing in Detroit, Michigan, on April, 28.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, otherwise called FIRST, is an international youth organization that operates the FIRST Robotics Competition, along with a number of other competitions. In FIRST Robotics, teams of high-school-aged students are given six weeks to build and program a robot from a kit of limited parts.

These robots compete in field games at regional events where they vie for the opportunity to advance to the championship. The field games require each team to enter one robot to compete as part of an alliance of three teams against another alliance of three teams.

Each year the competition has a theme, and this year’s is an arcade game theme called “Power Up,” which requires the robots to pick up cubes and move them to set locations within the arena. The robots then need to climb a scale.

Timothy Larson is a North senior who has been on the team throughout high school. He is the marketing captain and the student who controls the cube manipulator and climbing mechanism of the robot during competitions.

Larson explained that this season it was a challenge to ensure the robot could consistently pick up the cubes.

“At our first competition we were very consistent until finals, but as our robot bumped into things we were bending our arms,” Larson said.

He added that between the Duluth and Minneapolis regional events, the team was able to redesign some of the parts to make them stronger.

However, head coach David Moran pointed out another obstacle that the Bionic Polars faced: weight. 

“We have a 120-pound weight limit that [the robot has] to be within, and many of our parts are heavy,” Moran said. “We go about fixing this by finding more lightweight materials and altering our design.”

Moran and Larson explained that the team is currently preparing for the championship by making changes to strengthen the cube manipulator, while keeping an eye on its weight.

Moran said the Bionic Polars are hoping to have a good time at the upcoming championship competition, and are hoping to finish well like the team did at the Duluth regionals.

“I feel confident about the championship,” Larson said. “I believe that our drive team has done a good job learning how to best play the game this year, and we will be able to keep up our current success. Even if we don’t do as well as we did earlier this season, I am excited for the opportunity to attend the competition and see all the other robots!”


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or


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