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Best Buy and Geek Squad Join 2,400 Tech-Savvy Students in ‘Best Bot Battle’

FIRST Robotics Trio

Brian Silewski is at home with hands-on work, and when he’s creating something from nothing with computers.

Mariucci and Williams arenas will be packed Friday and Saturday with 120 high school teams (totaling 2,400 students) going head-to-head with their six-week-old robotic creations. Six of those teams are co-sponsored by Best Buy and Geek Squad. (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)
Mariucci and Williams arenas will be packed Friday and Saturday with 120 high school teams (totaling 2,400 students) going head-to-head with their six-week-old robotic creations. Six of those teams are co-sponsored by Best Buy and Geek Squad. (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)

“I like building something new that you could be proud of … so when I saw robotics at school, I thought, ‘That looks perfect,’” said the 18-year-old Talon Robotics team member from Eden Prairie High School.

The team captain is one of more than 2,400 students descending on the University of Minnesota this weekend for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), a tech-based sport where teams of about 20 high school students battle to create the best bot in just six weeks.

Not only did Best Buy and Geek Squad give a grant to FIRST Robotics for the event, they also sponsored six teams in BurnsvilleEden PrairieMendota Heights and New BrightonRichfield and Tower View ALC.  The Mendota Heights squad is the Visitation Robettes, the state’s first all-female high school robotics team.

Best Buy and Geek Squad provided a grant to the FIRST Robotics Competition and dispatched four Geek Squad Agents to help out during Thursday's practice runs.  (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)
Best Buy and Geek Squad provided a grant to the FIRST Robotics Competition and dispatched four Geek Squad Agents to help out during Thursday’s practice runs. (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)

The event hits high gear on Friday and Saturday, as Thursday was all about practice runs, with four Geek Squad Agents helping out in the pits with students on tech issues and dishing out safety glasses.

“Geek Squad Agents helping out side-by-side with teens who are passionate about technology is the picture-perfect example of Best Buy’s philanthropic focus — to give teenagers access to the opportunities that technology provides,” said Best Buy Senior Director of Community Relations/Diversity and Inclusion Susan Bass Roberts. “Best Buy’s philanthropic goal is to help teens develop 21st-century skills so the next generation can thrive in the ever-changing technology landscape.”

A surprise hit of the day was the Geek Squad-branded safety glasses that teams got as they prepped their robots for battle. (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)
A surprise hit of the day was the Geek Squad-branded safety glasses that teams got as they prepped their robots for battle. (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)

And with 60 robotics teams at Williams Arena for the 10,000 Lakes Regional and another 60 robotics squads in the Northstar Regional at Mariucci Arena, staying busy for the Geek Squad Agents was no problem.  The event is free, too, so that probably has something to do with the 6,000-plus expected to attend.

“Today was crazy. It was packed,” Covert Double Agent Norm Walker said. “I have two kids, ages 5 and 7, and I may bring them on Saturday because they would really dig watching the competition with the robots throwing the balls around.”

What do the robots do? It’s more like what don’t they do.

This year’s event is Aerial Assist and requires teams’ robots to catch and toss exercise balls over beams or through goals to score points. With two alliances complete with three teams each, each alliance will have 2.5 minutes to score as many goals or tally as many successful tosses over the five-foot high truss as they can.

The Visitation Robettes, co-sponsored by Best Buy, just happen to also be the state’s first all-female high school robotics team. (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)
The Visitation Robettes, co-sponsored by Best Buy, just happen to also be the state’s first all-female high school robotics team. (Photo credit: Kevin Walker)

The end goal is St. Louis, home of this year’s FIRST World Championship in the Edward Jones Dome.

“Best Buy’s sponsorship is going to help get us to Worlds,” Silewski said. “It’s a lot less fundraising work that we have to do — having Best Buy take a huge chunk out of it is awesome.”

FIRST Robotics Pano