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Boreal Community Media

Ice Storm robotics team gets in gear

Nov 16, 2018 06:02AM ● By Editor
Robotics practice has already begun with a small group of kids working on the team’s robot. Above, the kids discuss writing codes for the robot. From L-R: Adrian Howard Larsen, John Vanderheiden and Hailey Smith. Staff photo/ Brian Larsen

By Brian Larsen of the Cook County News Herald - November 16, 2018

While the six-week “build out” is still more than a month and a half away, the Cook County High School Ice Storm robotics team has begun work on their robot, and is making preparations for the upcoming competitive season.

Head coach Tom Nelson said, “We have a small group this year, but I’m confident that as we begin more kids will come out for the team.”

For the 2019 season, Ice Storm has three new mentors, Jonathan Hedstrom, Mike Duvall, and Greg Pierce.

Hedstrom is an electrical engineer, Duvall a computer whiz and Pierce just completed overseeing the building of the school’s new science and culinary arts wings for the Max Gray Construction Company.

“I really like this community and have decided to stay here,” said Pierce, adding he was looking forward to working with the kids.

This year’s captains are two sophomores, Adrian Howard-Larsen, and John Vanderheiden.

One of the changes from the past is that Ice Storm will partner on some projects with the Duluth East team.

“The kids will set up the time and place we will meet,” said Nelson. “East coaches like their kids to do the planning, so I am giving them Adrian’s contact number, and they can figure it out together.”

A piece of really good news came the team’s way when it received an announcement from Arrowhead Cooperative. The memo stated, “Arrowhead Cooperative is excited to announce to the 3054 Ice Storm Robotics Team that through our financial partner, CO Bank, a matching grant has been provided through their Sharing Success program. The amount of matching funds provided is $3,750.”

What is robotics?

While considered a team sport, robotics is more than just about competition. During the six-week build-out phase kids learn to weld, read schematics, read blueprints, mill and machine parts, work with a lathe to cut plastic, cut and shape metal, wire an electrical system, program the robot so it can be remotely steered, and learn how to run and program a 3-D printer.

Putting together those skills isn’t enough. The kids have to fundraise to pay for their big three-day competition held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC). Two years ago the team narrowly missed winning a trip to nationals, which is held in St. Louis, Missouri.


The regional and national competitions are designed by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), who creates the games that are played nationwide.

Each squad is paired with two other squads and square off against three other teams in a series of games. Teams are rotated throughout the day. Sometimes you are paired with a strong team or teams, and sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

No matter, win or lose, the kids who participate in robotics – the fastest growing “sport” in the U.S.– come out of the experience with new friends and new skills, which is a pretty great thing to see.