NCTC Robotics Team Advances to the VEX World Championship

This past Saturday, Northland Community and Technical College‘s Robotics Team earned the Excellence Award at the St. Cloud State University (SCSU) VEX U Regional Qualifier. Seven teams participated in the tournament including the University of Minnesota, Bemidji State University, St. Cloud State University, Pine Technical and Community College, and Northeast Community and Technical College (Nebraska). The Excellence Award is the highest honor at a VEX Robotics Competition. NCTC’s robotics team advances to the VEX University Championship Tournament which is in Louisville Kentucky on April 20 – 23rd.

The VEX Robotics Challenge for 2015-2016 is called Nothing But Net. The challenge requires robots to gather foam rubber balls from the competition field and launch them into triangular shaped nets. The university competition requires teams to construct two robots that work together. Additional points can be earned if one robot is able to elevate the other robot a distance of 4” or 11” above the field. The real challenge is designing, building, and programming robots using primarily VEX Robotics Components. Select parts of the robots were sourced locally from Digi-Key Electronics and Fastenal.

NCTC’s team consists of four students from NCTC’s Electronics Technology Automated Systems (ETAS) Program. Skyler Schimanski, Justin Voecks, Kyle Meier, Ashley Holmes are also employees at Digi-Key Electronics. The team is coached by Andrew Dahlen, ETAS instructor. According to Kyle Meier, “ It's been a great experience so far. We are looking forward to improving our design and program before the VEX World Competition.”

A VEX Tournament consists of many parts. When teams arrive at the tournament each robot must pass inspection to determine if the robot is of a legal size and uses only legal components. During the qualification rounds the teams played 10 matches. NCTC ended the qualification rounds with nine wins and one loss. NCTC climbed all the way to the final match in the tournament, but lost to a team from St. Cloud State University.

In addition to the actual tournament playoff, teams are assessed by a panel of judges to determine a number of awards. The judge’s panel is comprised of engineering professors and industry professionals. They evaluate each team by conducting interviews, observing the team’s performance throughout the tournament, and scrutinizing the team’s engineering notebook. The judges concluded that NCTC’s team deserved the highest honor. This regional qualifying tournament only had one world invitation, and NCTC took it home by winning the Excellence Award.
Another part of the VEX Tournament was the Robot Skills and Programming Skills. In Robot Skills Teams have 60 seconds to rack up the points by remotely controlling their robots. NTCT’s team earned second place in the robot skills portion of the tournament with a score of 179. The winning team had 181.

In the programming skills section, robots are pre-programmed to score points in 60 seconds. NCTC earned the highest score, 132 Points. Currently NCTC’s programming skills score is the third highest Programming Skills Score in the world for the VEX University Competition.

Kyle, Skyler, Justin, and Ashley are now focused on improving their robot and fundraising to compete at the VEX University World Championship Tournament. The team will need $3000 to cover registration and travel expenses for the World Championship Tournament in Kentucky.

NCTC’s Robotics Team is supported as an NCTC Student Club. They are also sponsored by the 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence.

About 360°
360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering ATE Regional Center of Excellence is a consortium of 15 institutions led by Bemidji State University and includes 14 technical and community colleges, including Northland Community and Technical College. 360° is designing a 21st century education system that prepares individuals to have rewarding careers in manufacturing and meets the dynamic, evolving needs of the region’s manufacturing employers through an enhanced pipeline, industry-driven curriculum, and authentic assessment. 360° is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and received a National Science Foundation grant in 2012 to become an Advanced Technological Education Regional Center. To learn more, visit

Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC) is a comprehensive college with campuses in Thief River Falls, MN, and East Grand Forks, MN. NCTC also has an aerospace site in Thief River Falls, MN, and a satellite site in Roseau, MN. NCTC offers certificates, diplomas, transfer courses, two-year degrees (A.A.S., A.S., A.A.) in more than 80 areas of study, workforce training and education programs. NCTC is a member of Minnesota State, the fourth-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States, and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. NCTC is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer. For more information about Northland Community & Technical College, visit or call 1.800.959.6282.