Area robotics teams racing into space this weekend

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LEWISTON — Forty teams of high school students from New England, including those from Jay, Farmington, Gray-New Gloucester and Auburn, entered their first day of robotics competitions at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Friday morning.

The Pine Tree Regional FIRST Robotics Competition has teams forming alliances to compete in a long-distance airship race. Students must collect fuel to build steam pressure, install gears to engage rotors and climb aboard for liftoff. The airship best prepared for flight when the launch timer reaches zero wins.

The competition teaches science, technology, engineering and math.

Lew Randall, adviser for St. Dominic Academy’s Saint Dominators team No. 6224 of Auburn, said, “This is everything. It’s a chance for students to tap into (those four subjects). I like watching the kids develop, making them think about other career options.”

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Richard Wilde, adviser for Mt. Blue Blue Crew No. 6153 of Farmington, said the team’s robot did good enough Friday to possibly be chosen to continue in the two-day competition.

“We have a much better chance of getting picked now,” Wilde said.

Daniel Lemieux, adviser of SMART, the Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team No. 3930 from Jay, said, “The team has accomplished a lot no matter the final outcome. It looks simple, but it’s not. Fortunes can change quickly,” Lemieux said.

That was evident during the very first match. The Blue Crew team broke a wheel and had seven minutes until its next match began.

“We took the damaged wheel off and competed with just five wheels. That was the best match we’ve had,” Wilde said.

Blue Crew mentor Joel Pike, who also mentors the SMART team, said, “This is a true example of engineering. Try lots of things. Find some that work and some that don’t.”

James Herlihy, another Blue Crew mentor and a former SMART team member, said, “It’s a great program. I love being able to help, inspire students to find their future passions.”

Steve Nystrom, adviser for Gray-New Gloucester Team No. 6161, said he likes the spirit of cooperation the competition promotes. 

“If we need anything, we can ask and get it,” he said.

“This is real world, real life. Students working together to get things done,” Nystrom said.

It’s the team’s second year of competition.

Qualifying rounds continue Saturday at 9:30 a.m., with elimination rounds beginning at 2 p.m. Award presentations are scheduled for 5 p.m.

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net

Thomas Marshall, second from left, Bryce Thomas and Matthew Gallant of the Mount Blue High School Blue Crew robotics team operate their robot 6153 during the Pine Tree Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Friday. 

Saint Dominic Academy senior Nick Welsh of the Saint Dominators robotics team from Auburn works underneath robot 6224 in the pit area while trying to make the robot climb better during the Pine Tree Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Friday. 

Melissa Bamford, left, Sydney Shaffer and Tanna Herlihy of the Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team, or SMART, gear up to compete during the Pine Tree Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Friday. 

2017 Game Details

FIRST STEAMWorks is the name of the challenge at The Pine Tree Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston this weekend.

The game pits two adventure clubs, with alliances of three teams each, against each other in a long-distance airship race. The alliances must collect fuel to build steam pressure, install gears to engage rotors and climb aboard for liftoff. The airship best prepared for flight when the launch timer reaches zero wins.

In the first 15 seconds of the match, the robots work to reach the baseline, score fuel in the boiler or deliver gears to the airship. Students remotely control the robots for most of the match to gather and deliver fuel from hoppers on the field. More gears may also be collected and delivered. Other students, behind the alliance walls, deliver gears and recycle fuel to the robots through loading stations.

Steam pressure builds as fuel is added to the boilers. The high boiler produces more steam per unit of fuel than the low burner. Successful delivery to the high boiler earns more points. 

Alliances earn points for the amount of steam pressure built. If the pressure goes over a certain level, bonus points are awarded. Fuel put in the boilers near the end of the match may not get processed before the airship lifts off.

Each airship also has four rotors, but some of the gears are missing. Airship pilots must retrieve gears and place them in the gear train to engage and spin the rotors. Each rotor requires an increasing number of gears to become engaged. Points are awarded for each rotor turning by the end of the match. A bonus is earned if all four rotors are spinning.

Toward the end of the match, the pilots deploy ropes for their robots to climb aboard. The alliance earns points for each robot secured aboard the airship by the end of the match. 

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