NEGAUNEE – Negaunee High School recently started a robotics club and they will be competing this weekend, putting their robot to the test against teams from all over the state.

The MinerBotics became an official team Dec. 1 when Negaunee got word they’d received a $6,500 grant from J.C. Penney to get the team started. Scott Washburn, MinerBotics mentor, said he then had about a month before a competition started on Jan. 5 to get a team together. There are nine students on the team.

“The interest from the student body now is just amazing. I’ll get stopped in the hallway by kids asking, ‘Mr. Washburn did you get this part to work yet?’ ‘Did you figure this out yet?’ so even though they aren’t part of the team it’s like they are a part of this,” Washburn said. “They hear about the announcements every day. So it’s gone from a lot of students thinking it was going to be little robots and a club to being a team sport.”

All teams were given six weeks to make a functioning robot that could complete a set of tasks for the competition this weekend. At midnight on the last day of the six weeks the team had to bag up the their robot and zip tie it shut with a numbered tag, Washburn said. Someone from outside the robotics team had to be present to verify that the bag was sealed shut by midnight.

The team will compete in 16 two-minute-15-second matches this weekend.

“I want everyone to have fun. This competition, I’ve been told there’s so much adrenaline between all the students helping each other there’s just so much excitement,” Washburn said. “I just want the kids to do the best they can. There’s no expectations and this is our first year.

“Maybe somethings going to go wrong, maybe our lift won’t work, but they worked hard and the put their hearts into it and I want them to just enjoy it and learn for next year.”

This year the competition consists of two goals: Frisbees need to be put in and a pyramid in middle that once the discs are in the goals, a team must use the pyramid to lift their robot off the ground. The higher the robot goes, the more points a team will receive. The MinorBotics strategy will be to use a dump bucket to dump the Frisbees in the goals.

One of the students on the team is NHS Senior Christian MacDonald, who is an auto CAD student.

“It seemed like an interesting club to join and be apart of,” MacDonald said. “I was one of the programmers. I helped a lot with making it move and making the servos turn to empty our bucket.”

According to Christian, one of the most challenging parts about building the robot and getting it to work properly was learning a new program.

“We got a lot of help from bigger school programs downstate. We even had a call with one. He walked me through (a problem),” MacDonald said. “He said, ‘I’m going to hang up this phone until you get this part working. That’s how helpful they were.”

Being apart of this team has made MacDonald think about what he wants to do after he graduates, he said.

“I haven’t picked a career choice for college yet, I’m undecided,” MacDonald said. “But I might actually go into some sort of programing because of this.”

Junior Jeremy Bell said his career of choice is one of the reasons for being apart of this team.

“I think being in this club has helped me to use what I’ve learned in class at this school with more of an understanding of how they actually apply to a real world situation,” Bell said. “I hope to be an engineer someday in the future, so this is going to help me with that, too.”

The MinorBotics will be competing in Traverse City at the FIRST Robotics District Competition. They will travel to a second competition in April. The teams scores from each competition will be combined to determine whether the rookie NHS team will go on to state competition.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is