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A student's quip "we are the weirdest family - ever" is something of a rally cry for Muskego High School's rookie robotics team, the WarriorBots.

In six weeks, an eclectic team of 24 students and nine adult mentors had to design and build a robot ready for the FIRST Robotics Steamworks regional competition set for March 22-25 at Milwaukee's Panther Arena.

Veteran FIRST teams in Mukwonago, New Berlin and Waukesha advised the WarriorBots to not take the first year to ramp up, but to plunge ahead and get into the competition, said Jeffrey DeGlopper, a Muskego High School physics and engineering instructor.

With the support of nine different sponsors, the WarrorBots converted a second-floor classroom to a robotics workshop and began building a robot answering to some or all of the competition's elements.

The objective of a Steamworks round is for an alliance of three robots to get its airship aloft. Robots must collect and deliver neon-yellow Wiffle balls to a boiler to power the airship. Four airship rotors need gears collected from the playing field to connect to the power to the rotors. And before the airship takes off, the robots must hoist themselves aboard. For the first 15 second, the robots operate automatically, then a robot's team of drivers take over by remote control.

In design brainstorming, teammates came up with "wild, out-of-the-box ideas" that were incorporated the the robot, DeGlopper said. Teammates flow between five essential work groups: design and strategy, hardware, programming, driver team, and public relations and fundraising.

The WarriorBots competition robot was finished and quarantined in February, but work continued on a practice robot to improve and refine components and computer code that would be removed and installed on the competition robot once at the Regional event.

FIRST Robotics is a three-month season, but "it takes a lot of time, a lot of focused teamwork that has become an exciting experience," DeGlopper said.

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