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W-WG's robotics team ranks 20th across state

The Westbrook-Walnut Grove Charges, along with their robot Taurus, are pictured following a regional competition that qualified them for the state robotics competition. Pictured are: Mason Byers (front, left), Coach Doug Lee (from left), parent coach Bruce Byers, Kaleb Curry, Joel Byers, Jonathan Kleeberger, Colton Carter, parent volunteer Doug Kleeberger, TJ Xiong, Anna Lee and Houa Yang (front right). (Special to The Globe)

WESTBROOK — After successfully participating in its regional competition, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove robotics team secured a spot among top competitors across the state and advanced to the May 18 Minnesota State High School League state robotics competition.

The W-WG Chargers qualified their robot, Taurus, at the Lake Superior Regional competition March 6-9 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, where the team had the highest scoring hatch panel robot.

The Chargers rank 20th among a total 221 regional competitors across the state. The top 36 teams qualify for state, many of which happen to be from metro-area schools. The state competition will be take place at the Williams Arena and Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota.

WWG Robotics Coach Doug Lee said his eight-member team has made the phrase “Grab the bull by the horns” true, as they named the robot after the zodiac sign and constellation.

“I’m so proud of his group because of the support they give each other and the way they push each other to do better is unbelievable,” he said.

The students on the team include: Mason Byers, Kaleb Curry, Joel Byers, Jonathon Kleeberger, Colton Carter, TJ Xiong, Houa Yang and Anna Lee. Parent volunteers include Doug Kleeberger and Bruce Byers.

The Chargers had six weeks to build Taurus according to this year’s First Robotics Competition “deep space” theme. Robots were tasked with duties such as loading cargo into a spaceship and placing hatch panels on the ship so the cargo would stay in, said WWG Secondary Principal Sam Woitalewicz.

“Robotics tasks are open-ended and students have to problem-solve every time they work on their robot,” Woitalewicz said. “The skills they learn with a program like this are truly life-long skills, no matter what careers these students pick after high school.”

Lee said he recently learned the team will be receiving a grant from the Robert and Helen Remick Foundation. According to the nonprofit’s website, the foundation supports groups and endeavors that assist young people and persons-in-crisis in Cottonwood and Jackson counties and nearby areas.  

“With this money, the group will be able to design and create a robot to show more of their skills in the near future,” Lee said, adding that the team is working on a robot to showcase in parades.

Lee expressed gratitude to individuals, businesses, parents and his wife for their support, saying the team’s success wouldn’t be possible without them.

He’s already thinking ahead to next year, and requests help from the community.

“Keep putting those aluminum cans in the bin at the school’s parking lot,” he said. “Every can saved makes a big difference.”

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