Robotics Team Robotics · Tonkabots Show Determination, Grit at Northern Lights Robotics Competition

By Becca Neuger

The Mound Westonka Tonkabots FIRST Robotics Team demonstrated strong engineering, teamwork and problem-solving skills at the 2019 Northern Lights Competition in Duluth. The Tonkabots had 15 students in grades 8-12 participate in the team event, which was held March 7-9 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

For nearly 30 years, the FIRST organization has been inspiring innovation and leadership by teaching STEM, teamwork and problem-solving skills through engaging, hands-on robotics challenges. FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Teams of 10 or more students are challenged to design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills and build and program a 120-pound robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.

Each FIRST Robotics Competition season culminates with district and regional events, where qualifying teams compete for awards and a spot at the FIRST Championship. Professional mentors volunteer their time and talents to guide each team. Every participant is eligible to apply for college scholarships.

The Tonkabots placed 41st out of 60 teams at Northern Lights. Team members included eighth-grader Rowen Koubsky; ninth-graders Jack Patterson and Matthew Carlson; sophomores Tristan Umbehocker, Connor Walters, Kenneth Lloyd, Alex Nordberg, Sydney Turner, Nolan Hanson, Ethan Kieper, Simon Leonard and Andrew Swenson; junior Truman Koubsky; and seniors Walker Laughon and Annabelle Patterson.

“The end score does not tell the whole story – what does is [the team’s] determination, grit and expert troubleshooting,” said Westonka Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Mark Femrite. “Growth mindset at its best!”

To learn more about MN FIRST Robotics, visit

View photos from the 2019 Northern Lights Competition