Coming Out of Bag: L’Anse robotics team preps for competition

Photo provided by Cara Wightman Members of the L’Anse High School’s Aluminum Sting team work on their robot during the build season.

L’ANSE — The L’Anse area schools robotics team, the Aluminum Sting, is preparing for its “out of bag” day, when the students will make changes to their robot for upcoming competitions.

The team will be attending the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competitions in Escanaba March 15-17, and April 5-7 at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie.

Saturday is the “out of bag” day when the students will have six hours to unbag the sealed robot, make changes and alterations and seal it back up until the Escanaba competition.

Team coach and teacher Cara Wightman said it has just finished the build season, when the team spent six weeks creating the robot from Jan. 9-Feb. 20.

“Our goal is to teach them how to work in the engineering environment and as a team,” team mentor Nathan Taisto said, which is what the competitions are all about.

Photo by Cara Wightman The Aluminum Sting’s robot is ready to come ‘out of the bag’ to compete in Escanaba next week.

It is a competition where participants play with and learn from the professionals about designing and building.

The rules feature different surprises every year. This year the challenge is to create autonomous robots that can be controlled via computers.

During its second year, Wightman said team has doubled in size. It now has 15 members.

She said the increase in members is due to the team’s success from its rookie year.

“I think that other kids are seeing the success of other years and wanting to be apart of it,” said Wightman, adding, “Every year we’re hoping to get younger and younger kids involved.”

In 2017 the new team did well in the competitions, earned all of the rookie awards and made it to state.

“They’ve learned stuff they wouldn’t be exposed to in the classroom,” Wightman said.

Some of those things are communication skills, coding, teamwork and programming and design building skills.

She said she is very grateful for the mentors they have, especially those from the Michigan Technological University Copper Country Robotics Team.

“They’ve been very helpful,” said Wightman.

Taisto has enjoyed his time as a volunteer and said it gives him a chance to give back.

“It’s great,” he said. “I like seeing kids that want to learn. I like seeing kids using their heads for things they can use in the real world.”

Wightman said it will be hard to top their experience at the competitions last year, but the program has proven to be a great experience for those students who aren’t athletic or sociable.

“It really brings out their personality and lets it be seen from inside to outside,” said Wightman.