By Inger Koppenhaver, Reader Submission
The gym was packed, and the energy and excitement could be felt as you walked through the crowds of teams waiting to hear their name being called. Loud music and fun announcers ushered in the beginning of one of the most underreported youth activities in our region. It isn’t hockey, basketball or football that has generated all this anticipation and cheering… it is robotics.
Williston is now the home of the nonprofit organization called Williston Robotics. After three years of growing a First Lego League (FLL) robotics program, they launched their first FTC (First Tech Challenge) team during the 2022-2023 season.
With a six-member team, they built robots, coded programs, discovered how to meet challenges the competition set forth and built camaraderie with other North Dakota teams. One thing that sets robotics competitions apart from other competitive sports is that they emphasize both personal excellence within your team and working with other teams during the matches in cooperative competition, as well.
Williston Robotics is the brainchild of a local businesswoman, Rebecca Schug, the owner of Levelheaded Bookkeeping. They started in 2019 with two FLL teams. In every year since their inaugural year, there has been at least one FLL team reaching the state level with a team winning the robot design award in two different state competitions. This past season 2022-2023, Williston Robotics boasted three FLL teams and their FTC team went to state and won the Judges Choice award. They just finished the 4th season with a total of 26 kids ages 9-14.
The new season of robotics is just around the corner. For more information about either the FLL or FTC teams, you can go to their website: Willistonftc.com. There is also a documentary streaming on Disney Plus called More Than Robots which highlights one of the robotics competitions within the FIRST community.