Brethren Robotics team looking to go to state finals for third straight year

BRETHREN — The buzz word among members of the Brethren High School Robotics team this year is “trifecta.”

Members of the Brethren Robotics team, parents and coaches gather for a group photo at a recent competition in Big Rapids.

Members of the Brethren Robotics team, parents and coaches gather for a group photo at a recent competition in Big Rapids.

That stems from the fact that in the first two years of existence, the Bobcats qualified for the state tournament both times. So hence, they are looking for the “trifecta” in the 2018 season.

Coaches Mitch Knoll and Bill Cunningham said the team has been working hard at preparing for the upcoming season. He said having some experience on the team has made a difference.

“We have 13 students on the the team this year and two juniors who were with the program both of the first two years,” said Knoll. “We also have two seniors who weren’t on the team last year. The bulk of the team is freshmen and sophomores, and everyone is thinking since we went to state the first two years we are looking for the trifecta this year.”

Team members this year are Mike Potter, Caleb Franz, James Arledge, Jacob Hofacker, Rhiannon Gillis, Josh Wayward, Raven Shriver, Jaden Young, Erica Feller, Will Pasqualone, Eddie Fitzgerald, Justin Kissling and Nathan Redman.

Cunningham said he feels the team is well balanced in terms of talent this year.

“We have varied talents on the team this year as we have the coding kids who are astute and then we have some hands-on students who are all about building and creating,” said Cunningham. “We also have students very concerned about safety and are paying attention to what is going on around the working area.”

Knoll said they also are good at working together and looking to gain information from each other. Cunningham agreed with that assessment.

“I think one of the biggest points is we are a team and there is no ‘I’ in this room,” Cunningham said. “We have our difficulties at times, but we work through them. Last week we had to make a major decision about the type of application we were going to use. Through the process of time and negotiating the team made a decision and we all said ‘lets do it.’ So I think the team aspect is our real strength.”

Every year there is a different task that they must design a robot to accomplish. What also adds to that challenge is having a talented driver to make sure the robot performs the necessary tasks.

pic 1“This year it will be moving around a milk crate size box and lifting balls up into a shelf and it will include some climbing as well,” said Knoll. “We have Mike Potter returning and he has experience which is good.”

The team will be one of  more than 40  teams competing at Traverse City from March 1-3. They will follow that up with another competition at Alpena April 5-7. The state championships are April 11-14  and the world finals will be in Detroit this year.

“During these events there are 12 qualifying matches during which we can qualify for the playoffs,” said Cunningham. “This year’s theme is ‘Power Up’ which is supposed to be a retro video game theme.”

Right now all the work is taking place to get the robot ready. Knoll said it is a tedious task where the students must get everything just as they want it before the competition.

“We have six weeks of a build season and there are 26 days left,” said Knoll.

Cunningham said the students have been very dedicated to working Monday through Thursday with a few Friday dates tossed in as well. He said they do a few weekend dates prior to the deadline.

What has also helped the Brethren team is some strong community support, according to Cunningham.

“The Brethren and Wellston Boosters have donated as has Mary Sturdevant and we got a Manistee County Community Foundation grant this year,” said Cunningham. “We got a scrap metal donation from Padnos out of Traverse City. There also have been parents who have made donations.”


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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