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Alcona Middle School heading to state competition

ALCONA, Mich. — The Alcona Middle School robotics team has qualified for the state competition. Alcona Science Teacher Rachel Somers started the school’s robotic class six years ago. It’s part of their STEM program which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

While providing the chance to have fun with classmates, constructing and operating robots also teaches students about building, coding, and working as a team, which Somers believes will help them in the long run. “I think especially in our area, with the amount of industry, tool and die, the engineering opportunities we have in Alpena, this area needs our kids to come out of school with this type of skill, not just the content knowledge that they get in other classes,” she said.

This is will be the third year that they have taken their robots into competition, and it’s the first time they have advanced to the state level. The challenge, called sky stone and put on by FIRST Robotics, involves moving blocks from one side of the play area to another, and stacking them on top of each other, earning points along the way.

Each team consists of two drivers to operate the robots, one human player to place blocks in the playing field, and a coach to guide them. Jacob Renchenski, one of the drivers, says he’s excited to be competing in the state competition. “There’s going to be 96 to 100 teams there and I think it’s going to be a fun experience,” he said.

With that many teams there’s sure to be some stiff competition, but the team’s other driver Garrett Somers says they aren’t too worried about coming out on top. “Winning, definitely, we’re interested in, but we’re more going there for the experience and going there to compete and have fun,” he said.

The team will head down to the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, Mich. for the competition on December 13.