Taking it to the next level

Killdeer Robotics team taking its show to regionals – again


The Killdeer School Robotics team is competing in the Northern Plains Regional BEST (Boasting Engineering, Science, and Technology) competition today and Saturday in Fargo. Killdeer will be competing against 36 teams from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Canada. Above, team members include: front row, from left: Daicie Mindt, Jessie Wardrobe; second row from left: Sierra Calkins, Cameron McGreagar, Curt Jacobson, Robbie Sadowsky, Garrett Calkins; third row, from left: Eli Spears, Stephen Westarp, Michael Hutchisun Jr., Vance Strommen; back row, Anthony Spears. (Photo by Bryan Gallegos)


Dunn County Herald

Garrett Calkins maneuvered a robotic front-end loader with a remote control, carefully lowering the bucket to pick up some golf balls during a practice run last week at Killdeer School.

Slowly, a smile started to stretch across the junior’s face as he operated the two-wheeled robot. The bucket slid across the floor and he scooped up the ball.

A few feet away, Vance Strommen also smiled and pumped his fist.

“I can’t wait,” Calkins beamed.

They won’t be waiting long. Calkins and Strommen are members of the Killdeer School Robotics team that will be competing in the Northern Plains Regional BEST (Boasting Engineering, Science, and Technology) competition in Fargo on the North Dakota State University campus this weekend.

The team is made up of a dozen junior and senior high school students. The other members are Daicie Mindt, Jessie Wardrobe, Sierra Calkins, Cameron McGreagar, Curt Jacobson, Robbie Sadowsky, Eli Spears, Stephen Westarp, Michael Hutchisun Jr. and Anthony Spears.

This is the third year in a row Killdeer will be competing in the regional competition, which features 36 teams from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Canada.

According to its website, the mission of BEST Robotics Inc. is to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science, and technology through participation in a sports-like, science- and engineering-based robotics competition.

There are two parallel competitions associated with the BEST program — the robotics competition and the BEST Award.

For the robotics competition, each participating school is provided an identical kit of equipment and parts, a set of game rules, and given six weeks to design, build, and test a remote controlled robot that outperforms other robots.

Engineers, University faculty members, and other technical professionals from local industry serve as team mentors, advising and guiding students throughout the design and construction of their robot; however, students perform all of the work.

In addition to the robotics competition, students compete for the BEST Award, which is presented to the team that best embodies the concept of “Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology”. The 5 elements of the BEST Award are:

• Project Engineering Notebook

• Marketing Presentation

• Team Exhibit and Interview

• Spirit and Sportsmanship

• Robot Performance

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Strommen. “We get to compete, we get to play with robots.”

Strommen knows all about that. He is the only original member of the Robotics team, which started four years ago. And he’s watched the team progress over the years. The first year Killdeer failed to qualify for the regional competition, the second year they placed 18th at the event, and last year they were 13th.

They’re hoping for top 10 this year, said Dr. Jeff West, the team’s mentor.

“We’re making progress. We’re learning what we have to do to get better,” West said. “That first year, we did not have a clue. We learned after that first year to keep it simple.”

They qualified for the regional by placing fifth at the Bison BEST hub competition in Fargo against teams from North Dakota and Minnesota. The theme is “Bet the Farm,” which involves using robots in agriculture.

The team had to design and build a robot to plant corn seeds (golf balls) and harvest corn (paint rollers). In addition to constructing the robot, the team also had to market its robot through a team exhibit and marketing presentation. They also scored on a project engineering notebook, which shows how the team used the engineering design process throughout the competition.

However, after placing 5th out of 16 teams, the Killdeer team realized it could’ve recorded a much higher score if they made some changes to the robot. They placed 15th in robot portion of the competition.

So the team completely redesigned and rebuilt the robot. The front-end bucket was the only thing they saved from the original robot. The crew brainstormed ideas for the new project, and they built the new robot out of wood and plastic piping. It has three motors, one each for the two wheels and one for the pulley arm that operates the bucket.

“I really enjoy the robotics, hanging out with friends and building the robot,” said Calkins.

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