By David McCoy

EDEN VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s where the competitiveness of sports meets the brains of science and engineering — Robotics Club. It’s a competition that has one small-town Minnesota school beaming with pride.

“I like the design part. I like engineering things,” Joey Kuechle said.

When the students at Eden Valley-Watkins decided to start a robotics club team this school year, they (believe it or not) were thinking mostly about the educational value.

“A lot of our guys on our team want to be engineers, some want to be programmers, stuff like that,” Kuechle said. “We just heard of neighboring schools doing it, and we just thought it was something really cool.”

Little did they know just how cool it would turn out to be.

“I mean, you don’t hear of a whole lot of rookie teams going to worlds,” Kuechle said.

During the Lake Superior Invitational in Duluth earlier this year, their team of eight students earned “rookie of the year” honors, and qualified for the World Championships in St. Louis later this month. They’ll be one of 600 teams from around the world. For a first-year team from a small school of just 400 students, it’s quite an accomplishment.

So how’d they pull it off?

“We had a solid team. We built a solid robot. And we built a simple robot,” coach Robert Flaschenriem said.

“It’s pretty simple, but it works well for what we chose to do,” Kuechle said.

The robot they designed moves across the floor, grabs a ball, then carries it and shoots it into a goal. In competition, think of it almost like robot soccer. The goal is to score more goals than your opponent — to capture a tower.

“And we go for as many goals as we can,” he said.

It’s genius is its simplicity. And its simplicity is its secret to success.

“We kind of just came up with the simplest two rollers in the front with an opening” Kuechle said.

But their coach says a robot like this is still nothing to scoff at.

“They had to understand how much electricity goes to all the batteries, from the batteries to this area to these areas, and the size of wires, it was a lot more intense,” Flaschenriem said. “All the way down to the engineering, they had to figure out how to make a ball get pulled in.”

Now they’ll get the trip of a lifetime. A rookie team from a tiny town, putting itself on the map with the best in the world.”

“It was pretty cool to be able to even compete in finals, and then to move on, is really cool,” Kuechle said. “And going to worlds is something that we would have never thought of.”

Eden Valley-Watkins has set up a GoFundMe page, if you’re interested in supporting the school’s expenses to St. Louis.

David McCoy