You may wonder why on earth a robotics team ended up naming themselves after a fishing lure. Actually, during the first year of the team’s existence, it was called the “Duluth Penguins”. The Duluth Penguins were founded in 2008 by Greg Collins. Throughout Collins’ high school career, he had always wanted to start a FIRST Robotics team. He approached the Duluth East High School principal, and several other teachers, to see if any one of them would coach, but they all refused. Finally, during his senior year the principal, Mrs. Knapp, said yes.
The Duluth Penguins’ rookie year was a very humble beginning. FIRST’s 2008 game was Overdrive, where robots had to race around a track and carry medicine balls. Sadly, our robot only placed 54th out of 56th, yet we were not discouraged by our placement. Instead saying, “hey, we’re not last!”. Now energized about FIRST Robotics, we were extremely excited to be a part of FIRST again in the coming year.
However, in 2009, we began reconsidering our marketing strategy. It was decided that the name Duluth Penguins did not fit our region, and that the name needed more pizzazz.
A lot of time was spent thinking up words starting with “D” to create an alliteration using Duluth. That’s when “Daredevils” was thrown into consideration. It was perfect! Duluth being located on the tip of Lake Superior in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, possibly the greatest state for fishing. As the Daredevil lure is easily recognizable, with it’s bright coloration and signature white stripe (or as we call it, the “swoosh”), we were able to further brand our team. However, our classic red shirts showcasing the white swoosh were not introduced to the team until 2011.
In addition, the treble hook added another aspect to the name’s meaning. Duluth used to have three public high schools; Denfeld, Central, and East. Originally, it was intended to be a team that involved all of the Duluth high schools, and thus chose the school neutral name, “Duluth Daredevils”. With the treble hook, we were able to assign a school to each hook. From then on the hook became the anchor of our logo. Yet, when the other two schools wanted to have their own FIRST Robotics teams, the name Duluth Daredevils was then abandoned and replaced with the Duluth East Daredevils. This further cemented our relationship and affiliation with Duluth East High School.
“We can do that!” became our team motto and helped market our robot’s abilities. In 2009, a sign was designed that listed our robot, Jaws’, abilities to show other teams why it would be a valuable robot on their alliance.
Since that time, we have become branded in the FIRST Robotics world and Duluth community as the Daredevils. We proudly donned our Zubaz and sported our newly designed team t-shirts. During the 2010 season with our robot “Ctrl-Z”, we competed up until the semifinals of the North Star Regional. In addition we were presented with the General Motors Industrial Design Award, which was our team’s first award.
“Beautility” and K.I.S.S. became our team’s mantras and began to define and shape our engineering principles. Beautility is the combination of beauty and utility, and K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. We always strive to not only design our robot so that it looks good, but also with the idea that it shouldn’t be more complicated than it needs to be.
During our 2011 season with our most automated robot “Archie”, we entered two regional competitions. In the Lake Superior Regional, we were presented the Delphi Excellence in Engineering award, and then at the North Star Regional, we received the Rockwell Automation’s Innovation in Control Design Award. After a win at the Lake Superior Regional, we were honored with the privilege to compete in the FIRST World Championship down in St.Louis, MO for the first time.
Post season, we tossed our competition manuals aside and revamped our 2010 robot, Ctrl-Z, into Ctrl-Y, a six-barreled t-shirt cannon. Our team now shoots foam baseballs at Huskies games, and shirts for Homecoming football games, and school assemblies.
Overall, it has been quite a ride for our team. We started out with little to no experience, and little exposure. Yet after our 2008 season, you could say we were “hooked”. Since then we have been constantly analyzing ways we can improve our team, won numerous design and engineering related awards, and made it all the way to the World Championship. Now, after our breakout season in 2011, we don’t plan on showing any signs of slowing down.