Brian Silewski is at home with hands-on work, and when he’s creating something from nothing with computers.
“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 Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Mendota Heights and New Brighton, Richfield and Tower View ALC. The Mendota Heights squad is the Visitation Robettes, the state’s first all-female high school robotics team.
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.”
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 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.”