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The Label Printers Sponsors Geneva High School’s “ROBOVIKES” Team At The FIRST Robotics Midwest Tournament

The UIC Pavilion in Chicago was once again rockin’ for the FIRST Robotics Program’s Midwest Regional competition on April 5 and 6.  Geneva (IL) High School’s Robotics Team – the Robovikes – who are sponsored by The Label Printers (Aurora, IL), competed against 54 teams who came to this regional championship from five states and Turkey. The competition challenges high school students, working with professional mentors, to design, build and program a competitive robot.

This year’s “game”, titled “Ultimate Ascent,” required the robots to shoot Frisbees into rectangular “slots” set at different heights in walls at each end of the game court. Robots could earn extra points if they climbed up a metal pyramid that looked a bit like monkey bars.  In each 2 minute and 15 second match, two “alliances” of three teams each controlled a total of 6 robots (designed and built by each team from a kit of parts).

2013 was the Robovikes 5th competition – and, as they have since their Rookie year – the team advanced to the Final Round of the competition.

Bill Kane, Chief Executive of The Label Printers, came to watch the competition during the elimination matches.  He was proud of the Robovike’s ‘bot Skadi (a Norse goddess) as it flung Frisbees into the “slots” with “robotic” precision – but he was even more pleased at the development of the program at Geneva.  “Being a sponsor gives you a good feeling of being responsible for [supporting a team] whose camaraderie and enthusiasm have grown every year.  It was great to see the team’s fans in Robovikes t-shirts, and to see their new mascot [team member Brad Snurka’s sister Robyn in full Viking regalia complete with a seashell that created the classic “Viking horn” sound].  The program grows larger every year, and we look forward to continuing our sponsorship of the team.”

Down in the “pit” (an area set aside for working on the robots, on alliance strategies, etc.) between matches, were Senior Matt Fee – team spokesperson for pit visitors – ranging from other teams in the

competitions to the judges’ visits.  Judges stop in the pit of each team during the tournament to ask about the team, how they’ve built their robot, what kind of outreach programs they have, etc.  The judges then make decisions about major awards outside of the results of the matches, such as Gracious Professionalism, that make the competition about more than just the game.  Sophomores Brad Snurka (2nd year Robovike) and Brandon Elizondo (1st year Robovike) were in the “pit” in their roles as programmers. Also in the pit was senior Will Camacho (4th year Robovike) – secondary driver, and junior Anna Green (3rd year Robovike) – safety captain.  Senior Justin Mui (4th year Robovike) Programmer, highly skilled Driver and Team Captain, appeared very relaxed and confident in the pit – as well he should, given the robot’s amazing speed and elusiveness around the court and percentage (nearly 90%) of “shots on goal”.  When asked if he played video games a lot, Justin replied, “Not so much now.  But yeah, I played a lot when I was younger.”

In the stands was the rest of the team, whose principal jobs were to scout and to cheer.  Junior Quade Spellman, Scout Captain and Captain on the Floor, spent hours taking information about the teams and their results from team scouts, and inputting it into the computer.  Parents and other team supporters filmed the entire competition, and Geneva High School and Robovikes “grads” Josh Kilmer and Keane Hensley stopped by the competition to cheer the team on.

Joe Kane, Director of R & D at The Label Printers, and the company’s team mentor, felt that this year was one of great growth for the team – and not just in the number of team members and sponsors. “This is the first time we’ve gone to two regionals – which are the big payoffs for the kids because of the environment and the excitement.  We get a bit isolated during “build”, and playing the game is the reward for all of the hard work – it’s fun and entertaining and cool.  But the first regional was a disaster – everything went wrong.  So for the 2nd regional the team rewired, recoded, added features to Skadi – and the payoff was huge.  Patience and perseverance took us from a team that was not picked for one of the final alliances [in the 1st regional], to being an Alliance Captain [in the 2nd regional]. The 2nd regional became a ‘life lesson’ for the team – that failure isn’t the end.  You can make adjustments, and you can still succeed.”

This year the team expanded their sponsorships from local businesses to include a company headquartered in Germany. The Label Printers has been the Robovikes sponsor since their Rookie year, and in fact recruited Geneva H.S. to put together a FIRST robotics team.  This year, the team’s other sponsors were Burgess Norton, Maytec, and Allstate – Dan Ross Agency.

National finals, where about 10,000 students compete from countries around the world, will be held the weekend of April 25 in St Louis, Mo.

Robovikes Team Members are:
Jason Belzer                       Matt Fee                             Will Morrison                     Brad Snurka                        

Mitch Bennett                   Anna Green                       Justin Mui                           Quade Spellman

Mike Brecht                       Stephen Hecht                  Alex Novy                           Ken Wendt

Will Camacho                     Grif McDonell                    Bryan Pallardy                   John Zupke

Brandon Elizondo             Tom Miller                          Tyler Rasmussen

The Robovikes are organized by Geneva High School teacher Mary Keyzer.  Her husband Kevin (a ceramics engineer) and his Dad are mentors, as is The Label Printers’ Director of R & D, Joe Kane.  This year the Robovikes’ met in Fabyan Elementary School in Geneva during the 6 weeks that the team had to build Skadi.  In exchange for the use of the school, the Robovikes will demonstrate the robot to the school, and they have also organized a children’s safety meeting for the elementary school students, featuring safety videos developed as a partnership between UL and the Walt Disney Company, and featuring The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa.  UL is the official Safety Alliance Partner for the FIRST program.


The Label Printers, Aurora, IL, started in business in 1967, manufacturing simple label constructions in a 1,000 square foot space, with 1 employee, serving the local Chicago market.

Today, the company has evolved into one of the 100 largest converters in the United States.  The Label Printers owns and operates two facilities in Aurora, Illinois, manufacturing and distributing labels and packaging products to thousands of customers in 25 countries around the world. The company’s packaging products are certified to ISO 9001 standards, and their quality is backed up by their 99.6% Quality Acceptance Rating.

The Label Printers is a member of NASPO (North American Security Products Organization), IACC (International Anti-counterfeiting Coalition), CACP (Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy), TLMI (Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute) and the FTA (Flexographic Technical Association).

About Geneva High School (Community Unit School District 304)

Geneva Community High School is over 130 years old and has over 1,800 students, 150 faculty members, and offers more than 150 courses in eleven academic areas.  Students may also enroll in one of thirty-seven academic courses in the Fox Valley Career Center curriculum.  Advanced placement and honors courses are offered in all academic areas supported by the expansion of our Acceleration and Enrichment program.

While maintaining an outstanding tradition of excellence in education, athletic and extracurricular programs, our school provides a wide variety of community service learning experiences throughout Geneva and the Fox Valley.  Our experienced administrative team and dedicated staff, along with the support of the community of Geneva, offer one of the finest educational opportunities available throughout the state of Illinois.

About the “Ultimate Ascent” Game:

ULTIMATE ASCENT (SM) is played by two competing alliances on a flat, 27 x 54 foot field. Each Alliance consists of three robots, and they compete to score as many discs into their goals as they can during a two (2) - minute and fifteen (15) - second match. The higher the goal in which the disc is scored, the more points the Alliance receives.

The match begins with a fifteen (15) - second Autonomous Period in which robots operate independently of driver inputs. Discs scored during this period are worth additional points. For the remainder of the match, drivers control robots and try to maximize their alliance score by scoring as many goals as possible.

The match ends with robots attempting to climb up pyramids located near the middle of the field. Each robot earns points based on how high it climbs.

About the FIRST Robotics Competition:

The FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual competition that helps students discover the excitement of science, engineering, and technology and the rewards a career in STEM can bring. In 1992, the FIRSTRobotics Competition began with 28 teams and a single 14-by-14-foot playing field in a New Hampshire high school gym. This season more than 2,300 teams, comprised of over 58,000 high school students (grades 9 – 12), will participate. Fifty-two regional events, 1 State Championship, 1 Regional Championship, and 14 District Competitions will lead up to the 2012 FIRST Championship in St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome, April 25 – 28.

FIRST programs are spearheaded by more than 100,000 dedicated volunteers worldwide, most of them professional engineers and scientists who mentor the next generation of innovators.  The program is supported by a network of more than 3,500 Sponsors, including corporations, educational and professional institutions, and individuals.

Participating students are eligible to apply for nearly $12 million in scholarships offered by leading universities, colleges, and companies.

"The Varsity Sport for the Mind," FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.  It’s as close to "real-world engineering" as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.

Students get to:

Learn from professional engineers

Build and compete with a robot of their own design
Learn and use sophisticated software and hardware
Compete and cooperate in alliances and tournaments
Earn a place in the World Championship
Qualify for nearly $14.8 million in college scholarships

About FIRST:

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST ® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $15 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) andFIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) for 9 to 14-year-olds, (9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S. and Canada) and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for 6 to 9-year-olds.

2011 marked the 20th season of the FIRST Robotics Competition. FIRST has grown from 1 event to nearly 60 and from 28 teams to over 2000. Much has changed over the first twenty seasons…but our key goals remain the same; our commitment to Gracious Professionalism™, our emphasis on learning, helping one another and inspiring careers in math, science, engineering and technology.

Gracious Professionalism is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go