Contributed photo
Lead Mentor Rick Schaefer has this year’s KAOTIC Robotics team expecting a top eight finish at the state tournament in May.

By Robert Williams


After a two-year absence, Frazee-Vergas high school’s KAOTIC Robotics team is gearing up for a return to the state tournament in early May.

The top 36 of 188 teams qualify for state, which will be held at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus on Saturday, May 4.

“Getting there is a feat,” said Lead Mentor Eric Schaefer.

Unlike most extra-curricular activities, there are no playoffs or tournaments to qualify. In fact, according to Minnesota State High School League rules, teams qualify based on the performance at their first robotics competition regional event of the season.

“If you completely tank your first event you can kiss state goodbye,” said Schaefer. “You better come out of the gates hot.”

Once all regional events have concluded state tournament points the 36 slots are assigned to the two highest ranked teams in each region of the eight regions and the remaining teams receive an invitation in ranking order regardless of region.

“It’s a complicated math scheme to get state points; you either have to be a captain of an alliance or you have to make it to the finals consistently,” said Schaefer. “You have to perform consistently and you bite your nails until the very last second.”

Photo by Robert Williams
The Frazee-Vergas KAOTIC Robotics team is preparing for a return trip to the state tournament after a two-year hiatus. State will be held at Williams Arena in Minneapolis Saturday, May 4.

Despite missing state the past two years, KAOTIC still benefits from the program’s overall performance over 12 years.

“We always build such a good enough robot that we complement everybody else,” said Schaefer.

KAOTIC’s consistency over the years has also made them a prime target for other teams to partner with at competitions and Robotics is unique in that teams can only be victorious by partnering with other teams.

“Last year, we missed state by four places and this year we are in 19th in the state rankings, overall in state we’re ranked eighth,” Schaeffer said.

KAOTIC is also ranked 234th in the country and 274th in the world.

“We’re making more modifications to the robot now before state and come state time, we expect to be in the top four,” Schaefer said.

This year’s team has a new sponsor in the Perham Area Youth Hockey Association to go along with their biggest supporters Team Industries and BTD Manufacturing, among many others.

“Sponsorship isn’t always about money; sometimes it’s just about physical things,” said Schaefer. 

Robotics is not cheap. The team’s budget is $32,000 and covers all of the travel, accommodations, meals, equipment, tools and other expenses like $1,000 just to enter the state tournament.

“We have great support from the community because the community realizes what this program does,” said Schafer.

The program is looking to expand to younger ages. Currently, students cannot join the team until ninth grade, but upgrades at the elementary steam level has given younger students a brief look at portions of robotics and Schaefer is hoping to find a community member to help start either an FIrst Lego League (FLL) or First Tech Challenge (FTC) team.

“They’re a small version of what we do,” Schaefer said.

This year’s seventh graders are the first grade that went through the Robotics Steam days the team holds at the elementary school. Getting kids interested at a young age is key to keeping success going in Frazee.

“We’re going to start reaping the benefits of doing those things,” said Schaefer.

This year’s team is heading to state with multiple top finishes, a second place at the season opener in Grand Forks and a second place finish at the Granite City tournament in St. Cloud.

Much of that success comes from upperclassmen who have spent four or more years with the program like senior Sam Stockstrom.

“He’s been my programming lead for three years now; he’s single-handedly changed this team from we build a brick for a robot to a really strong robot and to a really strong robot that can do a lot of really cool things autonomously,” said Schaeffer.

Stockstrom’s programming and coding allows for the team to move beyond what is required to what is desired in their robot.

“We’ve always been that team that builds a robot that does all the things that are asked of us and we do it at a high rate,” said Schaefer. “We’ve always built good, efficient robots. Well, now we can build good, efficient robots that have automatic detection for game pieces on the field.”

Schaeffer also keeps in regular contact with area teams like in Perham with former KAOTIC mentor Andy Paulson, along with helping out new leaders of teams around the region like in Detroit Lakes and Lake Park-Audubon.

“We’re a big community; we’re a big family,” he said. “You go and help everybody else out.”

He also keeps in contact with teams that have partnered with KAOTIC in competition for success this year, discussing potential strategies and seeing how they can improve.  

“We don’t call it competition; we call it cooperatition,” Schaefer said. 

There is still the desire to win on the biggest stage in the state.

“I expect to be in the top eight, for sure,” he said. “We plan to do very well at state. We have a good robot and a solid gameplan.”

To support KAOTIC Robotics visit and the team also posts updates from competitions on Facebook.

Five KAOTIC members named All-Academic

The Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference (NMRC) announced the 2024 Conference All-Academic Team with five Frazee students and a dozen Perham students making the list.

The NMRC All-Academic Award program recognizes the academic excellence (based on GPA) of participating High School students in the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference. To earn NMRC All-Academic Team honors, a student must possess a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher (based on a 4.0 scale) for this current year. 

This honor is open to students in grade levels 9-12. In addition to the GPA requirement a student must meet all varsity level “Lettering” requirements set by their team or school district as well. Students are able to receive this award on an annual basis.

The conference consists of 31 teams across the Northern part of the state along with three teams from North Dakota. These teams come from the communities of Northwood (ND), Brainerd, Warroad, Nevis, Cass Lake-Bena, Thief River Falls, Fergus Falls, Pine River-Backus, Perham, Alexandria, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Blackduck, Upsala, Frazee-Vergas, Little Falls, Bemidji, Greenbush-Middle River, Bigfork, Babbitt, Stephen-Argyle, Pequot Lakes, Crosby-Ironton, Kelliher, Fargo (ND), Red Lake, Swanville, Grand Forks (ND), Reemer-Hill City, Pillager, & Ashby. To learn more about the NMRC or our member teams you can visit our website under the “Members’’ tab.

There are 83 students from 15 different teams represented on the Seventh Annual All Academic Team. 

Team 4539 / KAOTIC / Frazee-Vergas H.S.

Seniors: Boyer, Josh/Stockstrom, Samuel

Sophomores: King, Aiden/Boyer, Madison

Freshmen: Stockstrom, Ashton

Team 3297 / Full Metal Jackets /Perham-Dent H.S.

Seniors: Kostohryz, Keegan/Starzl, Reid

Juniors: Papenfuss, Jaidyn/Cissell, Ellie/Bieger, Elsa/Dupuis, Hunter/Parsons, Gabe

Sophomores: Wagner, Maddox

Freshmen: Wagenman, Kelly/Ostlund, Addison/Dupuis, Mason/Jin, YiTao