In seven weeks, Owatonna High School's robotics team has put a robot together from scratch and has it ready for action this weekend at a regional event in Duluth.

The 43 members of the Rebel Alliance are hoping to continue the streak of qualifying for the state competition to be held in mid-May at the University of Minnesota. OHS has gone to state in each of its first four years. Minnesota is one of the few states that offer such an event. More than 200 Minnesota schools have a robotics team. Teams can also qualify for the World Games at the event in Duluth this weekend. Sixty teams will compete at Duluth.

Senior captain Sam Bendorf says, "We're really confident in our robot this year. We can climb consistently. We can put the gears on the pegs every single time. And the best part of our robot is we can shoot." In early January, teams learned what the game would be for this year and they set out to assemble their robot from scratch to perform the designated tasks.

Each school works together with two other schools in each round of competition. Groups may change after rounds, "Whoever your opponent is one game may be your ally the next game," Bendorf said.

One way to score points is to shoot 4-inch Wiffle balls through a 9-foot tall target. Bendorf says Owatonna's robot did that pretty well during a mock competition. He says, "We crunched some numbers and we figured out the game will be won by shooting. We're pretty accurate in our shooting." He feels this will help Owatonna get picked to join other strong alliances during the competition.

Bendorf says he was first interested in joining the robotics team because he wants to be an engineer. Now in his fourth year on the team, he is the admiral and oversees the programming, build, electrical and business teams.

The Rebel Alliance gets great community support from local businesses and mentors.

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