ST. CLOUD -- A central Minnesota robotics team will be competing on the international stage this week.

Local fifth-graders Lauren LeBlanc, Porter Roiger, and Michael Kedrowski qualified for the 2021 Vex Robotics Live Remote World Championships after taking first place in both the Skills and Alliance categories and earning the Excellence Award at the state competition.

The three students do not go to school together and are actually split between the St. Cloud Area School District’s Distance Learning Academy, Avon Elementary School, and All Saints Academy. Tony LeBlanc coaches the team. He says in some ways, COVID-19 and distance learning helped them spend more time on robotics.

Everybody's kids had so much downtime this year. They did have time to devote, probably more time than they normally would, into robotics and into creating a robot that was really the best possible robot that they could build.

LeBlanc started the Central Minnesota Youth Robotics non-profit after some area schools suspended their robotics activities due to the pandemic.

This is the second year that the team has punched their ticket to worlds, but unfortunately, the event was canceled in 2020. The 2021 competition was originally supposed to be held in Dallas but is going virtual instead.

LeBlanc says competing remotely creates a whole new challenge for the kids.

Actually, in my home there will be a camera feed that I've set up that is looking down on the field, and then it could be a team from Mexico, it could be a team Canada, it could be a team from New Zealand, but we're going to see a camera feed into their game area wherever they might be.

The team was given the option to compete in either skills or alliance and LeBlanc says the kids decided to go with the latter because they value teamwork and wanted to have more opportunities to interact with the other participants.

This year’s game is called Rise Above and consists of colored risers that the teams need to push or pick up to place and stack in the scoring areas to earn as many points as possible within the time limit.

During each round, the two teams will be working together to score as many combined points as they can. LeBlanc says they are still working on how to handle any language barriers they may face during the process.

The Vex IQ competition kicks off on Monday and wraps up on May 29th. Over 1,600 teams from 49 states and 30 countries are participating in the world championships, including 821 Vex robotics teams and 836 Vex IQ teams.

The event is also a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest online robotics championship.

Get our free mobile app

The 25 Best Places to Live in Minnesota

Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in Minnesota using data from Niche. Niche ranks places to live based on a variety of factors including cost of living, schools, health care, recreation, and weather. Cities, suburbs, and towns were included. Listings and images are from realtor.com.

On the list, there's a robust mix of offerings from great schools and nightlife to high walkability and public parks. Some areas have enjoyed rapid growth thanks to new businesses moving to the area, while others offer glimpses into area history with well-preserved architecture and museums. Keep reading to see if your hometown made the list.