NMRC Off season event 24 teams compete live April 17th!

We at the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference are happy to announce we will be holding the NMRC Invitational Tournament at the Bemidji Sanford Event Center on April 17th.

Our Governor has approved and promoted in person education and other athletic events such as Basketball, Hockey and Wrestling have been happening in our state for some time now. We feel it is time for Robotics too.

This event will consist of 24 FRC teams from north central MN and Eastern ND. As we all are well aware we are in the midst of a pandemic. Therefore we are taking a strict covid 19 protocol and are following all Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.

As we all have heard FIRST is unable to support “off season” events at this time, so we will be using an Andy Mark Field, home made elements and a version of an off season FMS.

This event is an opportunity for teams in our region to experience live competition, many for the first time with the IR challenge.

The event will be run semi regional style with some Covid modifications.

It is our pleasure to have First Updates Now (FUN) join us at this event to live stream and do Team Behind the Bumpers interviews!

We plan to show that events can safely be run (Depending on your location) to give our students the experience they have worked so hard for.

Feel free to check us out at www.nmrconference.org


Could you expand on this a bit? It’s interesting to see what precautions different events are going with. Will team sizes be limited, etc?


I’m curious to hear about this as well, especially since “MDH strongly recommends against holding tournaments or sporting events that will bring teams together from different states or from outside your local area.”


We are running with limited volunteers.
Our load in times are staggered to prevent build up at doors
Everyone will be masked
sanitizing locations will be very available
any human contacting game elements will have gloves
Teams are from our “local Area” (most within 1.5 hr drive)
There is a “red” pit and a Blue pit 12 teams each. Teams will not switch bumpers as to not contaminate other pits drivers stations. There is no student travel between pits.
Each team will have 8 color coordinated wrist bands, these ppl are the only ones allowed in their pit area.
There will be a 10ft buffer between each pit
Lunches for each pit area will be in different locations


Here is our team list:
876 Thunder Robotics

2503 Warrior Robotics

2883 F.R.E.D

3102 Tech-No-Tigers

3134 Accelerators

3275 Regulators

3277 ProDigi

3294 Backwoods Engineers

3313 Mechatronics

3750 Gator Robotics

4607 The Coalition of Independent Students

4480 UC-Botics

4539 KAOTIC Robotics

4674 Robojacks

5253 Backwoods Bots

5653 Iron Mosquitos

5658 Stormbotics

5913 Patriotics

6132 Ranger Robotics

6453 Bog Bots

7677 Bodacious Bulldogs

8188 Grand Force

8372 HCN Storm Robotics

8422 Husky Howlers

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Thank you for sharing these details!

Will this event have elimination rounds? If so, are alliance captains restricted to only picking teams assigned to the same color?

Yes there will be elimination rounds/finals similar to a regional event. There will be three alliance captains per color they are restricted to pick within their color

Do you have a rough estimate of how many people will be there total? I heard teams were being limited to 24 people, so if there are 24 teams in the event its safe to assume that there would be 576 people just from teams. I’m not sure exactly how many volunteers would be needed for this event or how many spectators would come though.

I’m surprised North Dakota teams are attending, I would have expected the MN Dept of Health to discourage interstate travel and/or require quarantining.


Eight team members counting coaches are allowed in the pits per team.
We have about 40 so volunteers.
The venue capacity with current state mandates is 800 people. In regular times the seating capacity is 4,700. The venue ticketing office will be running the count and teams extra seats and or friends or family will be first come first serve on the venue website.


There is no such rule that I’m aware of at this time. Also both teams are basically across the river from the state of Minnesota.

Oh, I was just reading the Minnesota Department of Health website. :woman_shrugging:


Yeah I was going to say both teams are so close to the MN/ND border, that they might as well be in Minnesota.

And if you know the area, you know that cities such as Fargo and Grand Forks, both of which are more or less on the border, are pretty mixed when it comes to people from ND and MN, so its not like people from ND haven’t already been in MN and vice versa- its literally been happening this entire time.

I mean I could see people having a issue if teams from all over ND were being invited, but the two that were invited might as well be Minnesotan teams, if we are being honest.

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April seems like an ambitious deadline in the US. I’m all for safe off-seasons, but I do worry that it may be slightly pre-mature.

Hockey and wrestling has happened in my state for quite some time too. My cousin had a hockey tournament where half the kids on his team and half the kids on the other team, as well as several parents and coaches all got Covid-19. Wrestling has been even worse, both tournaments in my state and one in Florida have caused massive outbreaks, the scope of which I am still unsure and I’m positive there are other examples.

If it can be done safely I am all for it, and will be interested in the results. Do you know what the ventilation is like at the convention center? Also what is the variant situation like in your area? You know your area better than I do, so likely have a better idea what is and isn’t safe with the levels of spread nearby. If done well, this can be a beacon of hope as you show how we can safely robot again. If done incorrectly, and an outbreak insures or God forbid someone dies, it will likely shut down any opportunities for future off-seasons for the rest of the season. So I hope that goes well and may everyone stay safe and healthy

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For those commenting who aren’t familiar with the local area, I’ve compiled some statistics to provide context.


  • The 24 competing teams come from 14 counties in Minnesota and 1 county in North Dakota
  • The counties that are represented from participating teams have had 0 COVID deaths in last 7 days, with 124 new cases which equates to 11.29% of MN’s total new cases in that time period.
  • The cumulative number of cases in these counties is 56,567 which is 11.25% of MN’s total cases[1]
  • These counties have had 879 COVID deaths which is 12.98% of MN’s total

The following image shows the number of teams in each learning model as prescribed by the MDH based on the community’s case rate per 10,000 residents. Schools in hybrid learning models and up have ongoing student participation in afterschool activities such as athletics.

Also of note is the existence of COVID variants from Brazil, the UK, South Africa, and California which have all been discovered in Minnesota. The total number of variant cases is 359 (per Kare 11 which is a local news channel).

Minnesota has done a better than average job of vaccine distribution, currently ranking 16th in the nation in terms of percentage of population fully vaccinated. North Dakota is even better at 5th in the United States.

All in all, I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves in regards to whether or not it’s a good idea to host an event. I’m guessing people will look at this same set of facts and come to different conclusions about safety. I’d just ask that anybody who wants to give their opinion on this topic to educate themselves on the set of facts concerning this specific situation.

[1] This statistic is somewhat misleading due to the inclusion of Sherburne and St. Louis counties, both of which have one participating team with significantly lower COVID numbers in their communities relative to their surrounding counties.


These restrictions and your timeline don’t really make sense to me, unless there’s just missing information. My family in Minnesota hasn’t even been vaccinated yet, mid April seems way too close for most adult mentors or volunteers based on how slowly their city (St. Paul) is progressing in this regard. Family who are teachers have been jabbed with anti-Covid juice though!

Are you limiting the total number of people from each team attending or are you only limiting people in the pit? 8 total per team at the event seems right, but it doesn’t seem clear if that’s the total count.

Are you requiring a covid test prior to the event like texas is? Are you asking attendees to isolate?

Are there going to be regular public attendees? Will bleachers be used? If yes, this to me is a bad move unless this is also highly regulated and restricted. Open movement of people in and out is a bad idea, especially if they all sit closely in the stands. (Not to mention they’ll be cheering, yelling, etc)

The splitting of blue and red pits seems like a good idea, are the pits also spread out well in a well ventilated area?

When and where will teams be eating? Also staggered like your load in? Glad you’re requiring masks, hopefully the unmasked folks can sit outside to eat? Even if it is chilly out, it is still a safer setup.


This has not happened in our area to my knowledge.

My School just hosted section and individual state playoffs. I would argue robotics is much safer than wrestling (non contact and we are waring masks)

I am sure many will not agree that other sports should be happening, but our state has given them the approval. To maintain interest in our programs and to give our students( some who have not competed in 2 years we are providing an opportunity.

Most of our mentors are teachers and most of them have had the option to receive the vaccine.

See above. 800 total people in the venue, this includes volunteers, venue staff, teams and spectators. 96 mentors and students will be allowed in each of their respective pit areas = 192. There will be 50 event volunteers ( mostly mentors of attending teams).
The venue will have ~20 workers. The venue will have free online ticketing with the remainder of available spots. This will mostly be team members as teams will be the only ppl to know when online tickets become available. The seating at the venue will hold 4,700 ppl. At most we will have about 500 in the stands, ~11% they should be able to spread way out.

Each team mentor will be required to go through the MDH pre event check list with attending student team members. That info will be collected by the NMRC.

Each pit will be 10x10 with at least a 10ft buffer between the next pit. The hockey arena we are using is well ventilated.

Teams will be eating in different locations according to their pit color with enough space to distance when eating. Boxed lunches will be provided by the venue.

All great questions!


Have you planned out where the field will be located? It looks like the Sanford Event Center is a pretty traditional hockey arena. Events at those arenas put the fields on one the short end of the arena, meaning ~25% of the seats are actually usable.

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The field would be toward the “front” half a the arena floor. The arena is more of a U shape with more seating on the front half. I would estimate aprox. 50%+ of the available seating would provide a good view of the field, but the event could be viewed from anywhere in the arena.
I have been to several different events at this venue.

Fantasy First want in on this off season event? I can put out the red, blue pit assignments…