Mikayla Paul, a Cloquet High School junior, considers herself a high school music nerd.
"Music is something I've done all my life," Paul said.
Then she joined her school's new FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics team earlier this year and found herself, along with 30 other students, involved in something that she said that doesn't just draw one kind of student with a specific set of interests.
"We have all kinds of kids," she said.
The school's first robotics team calls themselves the RipSaw Robotics. The team's coach is industrial technology teacher Cameron Lindner.
"Being that we're a rookie team this year, we don't really know what we're doing quite yet. We just figured out all the logistics," Paul said. "Now, we're working our way into getting into competition mode."
Still, the team has high hopes for themselves, with ambitions of winning a local competition and receiving the "rookie of the year" award. They plan to participate in the regional competition to be held in March at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, but first, they need to find sponsors to help them pay their way there.
"Robotics is not the cheapest sport to do," junior Parker Deters said. Using grant money, the team was able to purchase the parts needed to build the robot, but competition registration for a rookie team costs another $3,000, as opposed to $5,000 for veteran teams.
FIRST Robotics teams like the RipSaw Robotics each build and design a robot that specializes in different functions. At competition, they participate in a game called "Destination: Deep Space," where an alliance, consisting of three randomly selected teams, competes against another alliance.
Each alliance then has to strategize how they are going to get their robots to pick up the most "cargo pods" in the two minutes and 30 seconds allotted.
Deters, who's passionate about the sciences and wants to go into aerospace engineering, said he has a hard time not thinking about robotics outside of robotics practice.
"Everybody has something they nerd out about, and this brings out the inner nerd in everybody," Deters said.
Junior Alyssa Doble said she joined the team because she thought it would be a good chance to see what the STEM fields are all about before heading off to college in a couple of years and deciding on a degree. She also craves new experiences.
"I just think that it will be good for me to expand and get out and meet new people," Doble said.