About 1,800 high school students from the Upper Midwest and Canada are expected to participate in the FIRST Robotics Great Northern Regional competition Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 26-29, at the Alerus Center.

Organizers say the third annual event will draw 60 high school teams, along with their engineering and technical mentors, from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and Manitoba.

FIRST, or “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” is an international organization that operates FIRST Robotic competitions and FIRST LEGO events.

For this week’s event, students received information on specifics of the challenge Jan. 4. Then they went to work designing and building an original robot to master this year’s space-related game, “Infinite Recharge,” said Mary Anderson, coach for the Greenbush-Middle River team and member of the planning committee.

Each team controls its robot to perform certain tasks, a feat which requires the application of technical knowledge, communication and teamwork, Anderson said.

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Christine Marvin, vice president of Marvin Windows and Doors, will speak at a luncheon Friday. Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Minnesota Sen. Mark Johnson, will give welcoming remarks Friday and Saturday.

The Great Northern Regional planning committee, which is hosting the event, includes robotics mentors from teams affiliated with schools in Northwood, N.D., and Greenbush-Middle River, Frazee and Warroad, Minn.

The competition has grown from 47 participating teams in the first year to 52 teams in the second, Anderson said.

About 175 volunteers are involved in this event, which includes exposure to college, scholarship and career opportunities in the region.

Event sponsors include Marin Windows and Doors, Digi-Key, John Deere, the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau, the UND Center for Innovation and the Minneapolis-based Freestyle Productions.

Several awards, including individual awards that recognize leadership and dedication and 14 team awards, will be presented.

The winner of the championship will go on to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship set for April 28-May 2 at Detroit, Mich.

Teams also can become eligible to attend the world championships by earning certain awards at this competition.

The public is welcome to attend the event at no charge. The competitive rounds Friday and Saturday will be the most interesting for visitors, Anderson said.