Robotics teams are advancing

ESCANABA — The 2019 FIRST Championship starts Wednesday in Detroit. Four high school robotics teams from the Upper Peninsula are planning to head downstate for the event — Bark River-Harris, Gladstone, Stephenson and Ontonagon.

One of these teams is Bark River-Harris’ ICE Cubed. After Michigan’s state championship was held earlier this month, the team was ranked 85th out of the 542 teams in the district.

ICE Cubed has attended FIRST’s world championship before.

“We went there two years ago,” Lead Mentor Mick Reynolds said.

Reynolds thanked people in the area for making ICE Cubed’s presence at this year’s championship possible.

“The number-one thing is the extreme generosity of our … community and our supporters,” he said. The team had to raise about $18,000 to cover the costs of its trip to Detroit; nearly the entire amount needed was raised over the course of a week.

Reynolds also voiced his appreciation of the team’s main sponsor, Engineered Machined Products.

“They do so much for us,” he said.

With a state ranking of 51st, Gladstone’s BraveBots are heading downstate, as well.

“We’re excited about making it to worlds,” Coach Tim Barron said. According to Barron, this marks the sixth year in a row the team will be competing on this level.

Barron said his team felt confident as of Monday.

“We’re feeling our robot this year has performed really well, and … our drive team has had really good chemistry,” he said.

He noted — when asked which days of the week they wanted to meet during the season — the students and mentors involved with the BraveBots voted to meet every day of the week except Fridays.

“Our success has correlated with the team’s work ethic,” Barron said.

Additionally, the Stephenson Eagles — ranked 89th in the state — have qualified for the championship.

“We’re honored to be able to have that experience for our kids,” Superintendent Ronald Kraft said.

According to Kraft, the team has been performing well as of late.

“This has been a great season for them,” Kraft said.

Kraft said people in the area have been supportive of the Eagles.

“The emotional support for these kids, and the financial support from this community, has been heartwarming,” he said. More than $10,000 was contributed to the team by the community in about eight days.

Ontonagon’s Gladiators are eligible to participate in the 2019 FIRST Championship, as well. The team is ranked 39th in Michigan.

The 2019 FIRST Championship will take place from Wednesday, April 24 to Saturday, April 27.