Stevens robotics preps for state tourney

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Rapid City Stevens High School’s robotics team is a relatively young team that is bringing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to a new generation of engineers.

“It’s to bring STEM to the forefront,” said Jason Reub, advisor to the team. “It’s how we create the future thinkers. How do we get the problem solvers out there and get them interested in fields that pay well, that are challenging, and allow them tons of versatility?”

Robotics isn’t the easiest of team sports. It confronts team members with challenges they’ve likely never encountered before.

“Probably the hardest part is on-the-fly fixes,” said Ian Helgeson, one of the team’s lead builders. “During competition, if something goes out, you have about 10 minutes until your next one. So, you’ve got to know what you’re doing, you’ve got to do it fast, and you’ve got to figure out a problem on-the-fly.”

Robotics also presents challenges that not everyone is up to facing.

“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also long hours putting in the work after school,” Helgeson said. “It’s not just 30 minutes after school, it’s hours.”

Stevens High School’s robotics team has faced all of these challenges and met them with grace and success. This past December, they won the Black Hills Regional VEX Robotics Tournament, earning them places in both the South Dakota state tourney in Harrisburg later this month, as well as the national tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The team is now hard at work getting their robots ready to go up against some of South Dakota’s best and brightest aspiring engineers in the next tournament. The road to success has not always been a smooth one, but hard work has brought it all together.

“Like any program, we struggled,” said Reub. “Four years ago, we were barely figuring out how to put stuff together and program. Now we have distinctive programmers, we have efficient development of mechanical structures, and we have robots that are competing at a level that is competitive. And then last year, we actually won some trophies.”

A win in Harrisburg means the team’s second invite to the World Championship in Louisville, Ky., and the team feels good about their prospects.

“We’re feeling anxious,” said Helgeson. “But we’re ready to go back to competition. We’ve made a lot of improvements, and we’re ready to compete and see how it goes.”

The state tournament in Harrisburg will be on Feb. 24.

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