R4 Robotics team members hear first-hand what it’s like to be a lineman at the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association training facility earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Bethany Gruenig.


A Rio Rancho robotics team learned what a lineman risks for the sake of power at the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association training facility earlier this month.

In preparation for the BEST Robotics competition, where the objective is to make the job of people who work on power lines safer, the R4 Robotics, or Rio Rancho Robo Runner, team received training regarding the role of this position.

“Really knowing the dangers of what our linemen are doing is really important, and it’s something I didn’t know about before,” said 17-year-old R4 Robotics Business Director Bethany Gruenig.

The team learned linemen are the people who work to fix power outages, repair power lines and switches after natural disasters, and install cables to various power sources, she said.

“Some of these linemen climb up poles that are over 800 feet, which is really scary and really dangerous,” Gruenig said. “One of our team members, his dad is a lineman and he came and talked to us about the accidents he has seen. One of his co-workers fell 50 feet and broke his back.”

R4 Robotics sponsor Shelly Gruenig, Bethany’s mother, said being a lineman is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Team members used the Tri-State training as motivation and inspiration as young entrepreneurs, as well as understanding the dangers to a lineman.

Eleven-year-old team member Rachel Cannon was inspired to help build the team robot, but also a little extra invention of her own. She learned lineman wear spiked shoes to climb up poles to power lines. The shoes are a “killer” to wear, she said.

“I could just imagine wearing spiked shoes around. I think it would be kind of cool to make it more comfortable,” Cannon said.

Between diagrams, hands-on activities and demonstrations of Tri-State generators, the team was ready to get to work, Bethany Gruenig said.

“They took us out into their yard, and their yard had a bunch of bucket trucks and big generators and big insulators and things like that,” she said. “And there were a bunch of spare parts back there as well, and they actually gave us the opportunity to take some of those parts with us — the smaller parts — and put them in our exhibit booth for competition so other students in the competitions can have hands-on experience with those materials as well.”

BEST Robotics released a video of what each robot will be asked to do:

• Pick up fallen power lines and connect them to towers.

• Connect new power lines to towers.

• Pick up debris and place it into disposal staging areas.

• Pick up grid conduit pipes and install them in trenches.

• Connect a single fallen power line to multiple insulator polls.

• Install transformers onto insulator polls.

R4 Robotics is the 10-time state champion of the upcoming BEST Robotics competition. The event will be held Saturday at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.