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Local Teen Engineers Honored

Posted at: 04/01/2013 10:38 PM
Updated at: 04/01/2013 10:42 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- The whir of a small engine and the smell of burning rubber filled the Albert Lea High School cafeteria on Monday afternoon as a group of young engineers demonstrated the abilities of their “friend” Hex.

Hex is a fast-moving, free-wheeling, and now award-winning, Frisbee-throwing robot.

The brain child of the Albert Lea High School robotics team, Hex took home the top design award at this weekend's North Star Regional FIRST robotics competition in Minneapolis.

And Hex’s creators couldn't be happier.

“I'm astounded at how we did,” said team captain Mark McGivern. “I did not expect to win this award. I thought it was for the truly expert teams, but this award shows that we are an amazing team."

To capture the prize, Hex had to launch Frisbees into small targets while avoiding multiple competing robots.

And in just their third year, the team from Albert Lea beat out 59 other teams, many of which had years more experience under their belts.

“This is a very prestigious award for any team to win, but especially somebody as young as ours," said head coach Ken Fiscus.

With just 43 days to design, program, and build the robot, the team had to work quickly.

“It's crazy, it's intense,” Fiscus said. “It's 50 hours a week extra, and living on pizza and pop, adrenaline, frustration."

And while the students won't be taking Hex with them to college, they know that the knowledge they gained will serve them well for years to come.

“The stuff I learned here, it's going to be an amazing use for someone going into any field,” McGivern said. “Teamwork, leadership, the design process, it's all useful everywhere.”

This weekend’s competition was the team’s last of the year, but coach Fiscus said the team has already started planning for next year.