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The Math and Science Academy Fighting Calculators, the school's robotics team, were named the 2013 champions at the North Star Regional Tournament held March 30 at the University of Minnesota. MSA will next compete April 24-27 in St. Louis, Mo. against nearly 400 teams from across the United States and internationally in the World Championship.

MSA robotics team advances to World Championship

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MSA robotics team advances to World Championship
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For the past seven years, Minnesota Math and Science Academy's robotics team has narrowly missed becoming champions.

They can't say that anymore.

This year, the Fighting Calculators were named the 2013 champions at the North Star Regional Tournament held March 30 at the University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena.

MSA competed against 60 other teams from around Minnesota in the robotics competition, sponsored by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) organization.

"Our team has tried for seven years to win," said MSA junior Peter Irvine, who is also the Fighting Calculators' co-captain. "We've come close before so it's kind of hard to believe we actually won it."

MSA will next compete April 24-27 in St. Louis, Mo., against nearly 400 teams from across the United States and around the globe in the World Championship.

"We try really, really hard every year," said Will Preska, adviser for the Fighting Calculators. "Somehow we persevered and ended up on top.

"It's a great feeling to finally get there."

The Fighting Calculators were also awarded the Team Spirit award and were recognized for their outstanding safety at the event.

Ultimate ascent to the top

The FIRST Robotics Competition requires teams to build a robot in six weeks that can perform specific tasks.

This year's challenge is dubbed "Ultimate Ascent," required teams to build robots that could shoot flying discs into goals and climb three-tiered pyramids.

Robotics teams are allowed a total of six weeks to build and program their robots.

"What we usually try to do is spend the first week designing and sort or prototyping and thinking up ideas," MSA senior Rachel Glick said. "The second and third weeks, we're using the computers to mock up what we're going to do. Then, we take the rest of the time to build and modify."

All told, MSA's robotics team spent 250 hours creating its robot.

At the North Star Regional Tournament, the Fighting Calculators were able to upset two undefeated robotics teams - one from Iowa and one from St. Peter, Minn.

The day wasn't without its setbacks, though.

"We broke one of our most important parts in the final matches," Glick said. "A big part of FIRST is what they call 'gracious professionalism' - helping out other teams and cheering for them - so we were able to get a replacement part from another team."

Help was offered in other ways, too.

"One of the other teams that was in opposition of us offered to use their one time out to make sure we had enough time to fix our problem," Siepmann said.

In order to prepare for the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship, the Fighting Calculators will be making adjustments to their robot to make sure they are as prepared as they can be, Siepmann said.

At the World Championship, the Fighting Calculators will compete against 100 teams in their division.

If they win their division, they will advance to the "Einstein Field" for the championship title.

"The Einstein Field is the best of the best," Irvine said.

If MSA should win the World Championship, the team will receive medals, a trophy, a championship banner and have the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., to meet President Barack Obama.

The Fighting Calculators said they can't wait to face off at the World Championship.

"It really is hard to believe this is actually happening," Irvine said. "Everyone on the team has worked so hard to get to this point, and we're very proud of each other and that we get to compete with some amazing teams at the world championships."

MSA sophomore Ines Siepmann called the experience a rare opportunity.

"Robotics is something different that nobody else really does so you can feel like you're doing something unique," she said.

Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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