‘Filling the missing niche’ with Farmington’s Rogue Robotics

Spencer Elvebak encourages students to be problem-solvers and critical thinkers

Farmington High School students in Rogue Robotics work on their robot during a Saturday session at the high school. Photo by Maren Bauer
Farmington High School students in Rogue Robotics work on their robot during a Saturday session at the high school. Photo by Maren Bauer

On Saturday morning, it proves difficult to find a parking spot at Farmington High School.

At least a dozen different high school basketball teams have gathered to determine a champion.

Athletes in different-colored jerseys lug sports bags too large for them and younger siblings tug on parents’ shirt hems for concession snacks. One can leave behind the referee’s whistle, the end of quarter buzzer, and cheers of the crowd.

Down the stairs, down a long hallway. It’s quiet.

At the end of the hall, one can hear voices and see a light.

Room 1105 is bustling.

Students busily work in groups on computers, on iPads, on the new robot, and the old.

Adult mentors stand in the background as students hunch over the different technology pieces. The adults answer questions as needed and offer support if requested, but it’s the students in Rogue Robotics attire who run the show.

Photo by Maren Bauer The Management Team for Rogue Robotics guides the group through all the stages of development for the program.
The Management Team for Rogue Robotics guides the group through all the stages of development for the program.

It’s divided into four teams in order to designate duties and roles: management, programming, build and design, and wiring and electronics. The management team is in charge of logo design, marketing, apparel, obtaining sponsors, and arranging fundraisers, among other tasks.

Lizzie Cash, a junior and management team captain, said she knew nothing of robotics and coding when she joined the team as a ninth-grader.

Like many group members, she learned the necessary skills hands-on.

Head coach, Spencer Elvebak, takes a student-driven coaching approach. He organizes hotel stays and varsity letters, while students take charge of finding sponsors and building the robot in accordance to the challenge of the year. Students have also reached out to parents and adults in the search for mentors. They now have about 13 mentors to support them, ranging from electrical engineers to university professors.

Cash and fellow junior Hailey Berg have loved learning the marketing and networking skills, in addition to coding and engineering.

“Some of my closest friendships are from this team,” said sophomore Ellie Colson. Berg laughs, “Yeah, probably ’cause we spend so much time together.”

So why does Elvebak devote so many hours to this team?

Adult mentor and students watch as Mittens, the robot from 2014-15, responds to reflective light. Photo by Maren Bauer
Adult mentor and students watch as Mittens, the robot from 2014-15, responds to reflective light. Photo by Maren Bauer

“I guess to fill the missing niche,” Elvebak said. “We have students with this competitive edge who don’t necessarily want to join a sports team. This is a place that allows them to satisfy that, as well as build friendships and learn life skills.”

The team will compete at regionals the first weekend of March, hoping to qualify for Worlds in April. The MSHSL state competition will be in May.

More about the team is at http://roguerobotics.wixsite.com/frc2987.

Email Maren Bauer at
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