First Stronghold, a quest to breach opponents’ fortifications and weaken and capture opponents’ towers, sounds like medieval warfare but is actually the challenge for this year’s robotics competition, and a team from Redwood Valley High School is going to be there.

Teams will face off on their quest to breach their opponents’ fortifications and weaken and capture their opponents’ tower later this week in a challenge known as First Stronghold, and a team from Redwood Valley High School is going to be there.

What sounds at first like medieval role playing is actually the challenge for this year’s For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology® (FIRST) Robotics competition.

For the past six weeks, a group of 37 students in Grades 9-12 from RVHS have been creating a robot entry for the competition being held in Duluth this Thursday through Saturday.

According to Emma Gaffney and Samantha Lydick, members of the RVHS robotics media team, the team has had “many ideas, failures and even more ideas. There is always a plan B, C and even D for us to use.”

“Due to the complexity of this year’s game, as a team we have been more committed and put in more hours than ever expected,” they added.

Isaiah Kremin would know that well, as the RVHS senior has been part of the program from the first year. Now in its fourth season, the local robotics team started with a blank slate in January when they found out it would need to build a robot that would have to accomplish tasks including tossing boulders, crossing moats and capturing towers.

“The robot is completed to the best that we can do it,” said Kremin this past Thursday afternoon. “We have worked very hard, and I think we have had a strong robot we can do well with this year.”

Caleb Kranz, who is in his second year as a member of the RVHS robotics team, said once the challenge was announced the team members began brainstorming ideas about what kind of robot it would build and which of the tasks in the challenge were the most important to include to be successful at the competition.

“We started with the drive train,” said Kranz, adding this year’s robot has two bike wheels and an omni-directional third wheel. “We had six weeks to build the robot, and we finished at midnight Tuesday.”

This past Tuesday was the deadline for building in advance of the competition. According to Todd Steve, one of the team mentors, the last few days included some pretty late nights as the team neared the deadline. In addition to Steve, the team’s mentors include Mark Buyck and Chad Johnson, who is an engineer from Daktronics.

The FIRST® program was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen who wanted to create an activity that would inspire youth to find interest in science and technology.

The program has grown dramatically, and this year more than 75,000 students on more than 3,100 teams will compete at one of 114 venues around the globe.

“The coaches are a big part of our program,” said Kremin, adding they make being part of robotics fun.

Kremin added he has an interest in the field of robotics and is looking at pursuing a career in it.

“I think team morale is stronger than ever. We had a lot of higher level problems to figure out this year, and I am excited to compete,” he said.

While the team had to put down their tools and box up their robot this past Tuesday, they have one day in Duluth prior to the start of competition to put on the finishing touches and then to do some practicing.

Kranz believes the team has a chance to be pretty successful this year, and he hopes they build on successes it has had in the past.

According to Gaffney and Lydick, learning new ways to build the robot became an everyday thing for the team, and their accomplishments would not have been possible without the help of Buyck, Steve and Johnson.

“They never give up on us and continue to push us to think in new ways every day,” added Gaffney and Lydick. “We are also thankful for our sponsors Daktronics, Medtronic, Monsanto and the Redwood Area Education Foundation. Without them none of this could be possible. We are so thankful for this exciting learning opportunity.”