Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Norberg

By Kaya Diebes & Abby Beddow

How long have you been teaching at Centennial?

“This is my first year teaching at Centennial.”

What classes do you teach?

“I teach mostly College in the Schools Physics. I have two sections of that. And then I have two sections of physics two. And then I have one section of physics concepts.”

In your opinion, what is the best part of teaching?

“The kids. They’re so fun. Even if I don’t always get through all of the stuff I’m suppose to get through we always have a good time.”

How did you first start teaching robotics?

“Well, the school I was working at wanted to start the program [...] but nobody volunteered to run it, including myself. So, we hired a new teacher, and we tricked, I mean encouraged, him to do it. He was another physics teacher so we shared a classroom, and so he would have the club after school [...]. So I would just end up being a neighbor and helping out with some of their tasks, so I kind of got the hang of it. [...] So I got sucked into it because you want to help people and you want to solve problems. Later, that school closed and I moved to another program. And by that time [my husband] had also gotten a job in St. Paul, and the teachers there had pulled the same trick on him that we did with the other teacher. So, they shoved robotics in his school on him, a brand new teacher. [...] So, I was like ‘well, he’s busy during robotics season I might as well help out at my school.’ And then I became an official coach, or mentor as they call it, so that was in 2012 at my other school. And it was really, really hard because we only had five kids. So that’s how I got involved and then it’s really hard to get out once you get in because you just get super excited about it. The little triumphs make it so you want to keep going on. And then when I came here they didn’t have a coach so here I am.”

How many kids are in robotics?

“So right now, if we’re talking about officially registered because we have some kids that drift in and drift out, but officially we have about 17 members. And then we probably have about eight or ten adult mentors between teachers and retired people and people from Medtronic that help us out with the technical pieces.”

What are the competitions like?

“They are intense. The competitions, like the practice competitions, you have a robot, it’s rolling, and it’s really friendly and laid back, but you still have a 100-pound robot that you have to get to work. There’s a lot of components. One of the biggest components that challenge is that the computer has to talk to the robot, so like the wifi, the communication, and I don’t understand how to fix it. But the other people do, so they solve that problem. There’s a ton of people, there’s a ton of details, there’s a ton of game rules just like any other sport. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of lights, there’s a lot of noise, there’s a lot of music, there’s a lot of cheering. It’s a thing. Like, people get into it. They show up in costume. They’re wearing LEDs. There’s capes, there’s skirts, there’s hats, there’s mascots. There’s even a mascot dance competition. And all of that plays into what you’d lie is crazy, but then they have awards for it. There’s an imagery award like if all of your components tie together into an unifying theme, you get an award. There’s this huge marketing aspect to robotics that has almost nothing to do with the robot itself. It has to do with outreach and being known in your school. It’s kind of like branding, so you have logos, slogans, motos, and you are trying to change things. You’re not just building a robot to compete.”

How many competitions do you do throughout the year?

“So we did a practice competition here, right before we had to be done. We did our first official, and our only official, competition [the last week of March] because they cost $5,000 to enter. [...] We’re going to do a practice competition next fall. We’re also going to do the State Fair which is more like a demonstration. So we only do one official one because the first one costs $5,000 and then everyone after that costs $4,000 and that does not include travel costs.”

Are these state-wide competitions?

“You enter the ones you want. [...] So we had two teams from China and one team from Turkey. So, there’s other tournaments they could enter, but they’re like ‘Minnesota’s awesome so let’s go there.’ You can pick any of what they call “regionals” as if it's geographic but it’s really not. It just kind of is because they pick the ones that are closer because they are cheaper for travel. And then depending on how you do there, you have the option of going to state. The top 30 teams in Minnesota go to state. Then the nationals, or championships, happen in Detroit. If you win one of the regionals you get to go there.”

Is there anything you’re working on now that you could share with us?

“Well, our season is done right now, so we can spend all the time we have fixing, and improving the robot we have now.”

What is one of your favorite inventions or robots that you’ve seen?

“I don’t know if I could say one thing, but there have been some creative solutions. For example, in the last game there was a step that was about [a foot] tall, and you had to get your robot to climb the step. So a lot of teams would put pistons in it and then it would shift over and rise up the step. But, this one team, from Edina, grabbed the step and did like a summersault, flipped upside down on top of it, and they nailed it like every time. They never fell off. Whereas the pistons were like on ice so they would fall over all the time. I love to see it when teams dream up really creative solutions outside of the box. And every year it’s something. Either it’s the robot that is creative or the way they’ve chosen to win the game is creative. It’s like the back door, or the secret code, to win the video game. They figured it out where it doesn’t break any rules and that entertains me.”

Additional notes Mrs. Norberg would like to add:

“We are recruiting! For all positions, but we especially need someone who could help us manage our account because we want to turn up our business side. We need to write our business plan. We need someone who is organized and good at nagging the coach for the receipts so they can keep the numbers.”

“There’s also the fact that it’s not just about building the robots. There’s so much more to it. You don’t have to be super smart to join. You just have to join and then you can be successful.”

Interested in helping out with robotics? Contact Mrs. Norberg at DNorberg@isd12.org

Picture Credit: Mrs. Norberg

Picture Credit: Mrs. Norberg