MASON CITY — In its very first tournament, the Lincoln Intermediate School Robotics Team — called “El Equipo” — earned a spot in the Vex Robotics World Championships April 18-21 in Anaheim, Calif.
Team members are Meredith McGee, Noah Murray, Thea Lunning, Tim Read and Nathan Elsbernd, all 12, and Camre Ginapp, 11.
Their work — and it is work — at a regional tournament in North Liberty in January earned them the trip.
Although they did not earn a top placing, they were the youngest of the 24 teams and still placed 13th in scoring, said adviser and coach Linda Zillig.
“Most of the teams were in high school,” said Lunning.
The students have worked to create a robot that can accomplish tasks since the beginning of the year.
It does not only move, but also can pick up items with a claw. It stands, with arm extended, some 45 inches tall. The robots are created from a Vex Robotics kit. Students work to modify the robot throughout the year.
Today, it has a bendable arm that can pick up bean bags (Sack Attack is this year’s theme) and wheels that can fold up.
Zillig said the students at North Liberty demonstrated a willingness to watch what the other teams were doing and learn more about how their robot could work. Competitions are made up of skills tests that the robot must complete.
And, they have worked hard, she said. The group has worked twice a week during lunches and after school since fall.
The team was one of six Lincoln teams to compete in the regional contest. Zillig is assisted by parent Randy Elsbernd and high school junior Juan Cornejo. Principal Tom Novotney will also travel with the team to California.
Since the competition, students have created another robot that will be used in the national event.
Vex did not charge the normal fee for the kit — almost $1,000 — or the $750 registration, due to the team’s pilot status.
The students have been fundraising to offset costs for attending the event. They have been selling “Hex-bugs,” small robotics that sell for between $6 and $17 each. The practices have continued since their return from North Liberty. Students have been busy building a new and better robot — a creation they cannot talk about in anything but broad terms, due to an agreement with Vex not to disclose details until after the completion of the tournament.
None are complaining about the work it takes to get to California.
“All the way back (from regional competition), everyone was saying, ‘We’re going to Anaheim! We’re going to Anaheim!” said Murray.