The robotics teams at East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools each received $5,000 from Northern Tier Energy in March.

The donations to the District 833 schools are part of a strategy to work more closely with the robotics programs, said Paul Anderson, Northern Tier's vice president of public relations.

"Over the past couple years we've taken on, I guess you'd say, a higher level look at our contribution within the community, he said. "We're trying to make sure we're fully involved and engaged in the community."

Northern Tier also donated money to the robotics team at the Math and Science Academy in Woodbury.

"This is going to be more of an ongoing event," Anderson said of the donations.

Mike Simurdiak, a chemistry teacher at Park and a robotics team advisor, said that students were excited about the cash infusion, particularly those who serve as the fundraising arm of the team. He said the money will go to pay for motors, computers, cameras, aluminum and other materials.

The cash will also help pay the costs of entering their robot in tournaments, including the state competition sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League.

"Registrations are probably our biggest fee," Simurdiak said.

This fall, Northern Tier will also provide volunteer engineers to help students design and build complex, competition-level robots by applying the principles of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Northern Tier also gave $7,500 to FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to support the regional FIRST Robotics Competition at Mariucci Arena on April 7-9.

Northern Tier owns the oil refinery in St. Paul Park, which refines about 90,000 barrels a day. It also support local nonprofits such as Stone Soup Thrift Store and Friends in Need Food Shelf.