LEWISTON — Techno music blared and hundreds in the bleachers cheered as six high school teams walked onto the “field” with their robots.

Soon the robots came to life.

As referees watched, the robots began lifting, carrying and stacking recycling totes. Then they lifted trash barrels on top of the totes.

The higher the pile, the better the team did. 

Saturday was the second day of the third annual Pine Tree Regionals FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, a New England event that promotes science and engineering education.

Nick Sweatt and Lindsay Durgin, both 16, were representing Bonny Eagle High School at their first competition,

Their team had five or six weeks to design, build and test a robot. The work takes a lot of dedication, hours of brainstorming and perfecting the design, the students said.

During one of the semi-final competitions, teams were “BERT” in bright green from Bonny Eagle High School; “The Riot Crew” from South Portland; “The Duct Tape Dragons” from the Portland Boys and Girls Club; “The Orange Chaos” from Brewer High School; “The Outliers” from Baxter Academy, and in purple, the “Radical Impact” from Cheverus.

Many viewers wore team colors, creating a rainbow in the stands.

Overall, the day was “amazing,” said Jamee Luce, director of the Robotics Institute of Maine and co-chairwoman of this weekend’s competition. “There’s a lot of Maine teams in the finals.”

More than 1,000 high school students participated, plus hundreds of adult volunteers and mentors.

Competing were 20 high school teams from Maine, including one from Jay. Other teams were from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, Luce said.

The competition “is a way to develop skills in high school kids who don’t have a chance to develop in any other experience,” she said.“It’s hands-on. A way to explore ideas, gain leadership. This is the hardest fun. Every single one of these kids are going pro” in science jobs, technical jobs, marketing, manufacturing and business management, Luce said.

In fact, she said, CEOs of several companies were there Saturday watching or mentoring students.

The competition paves the way for some teams to advance to the championship April 9-11 at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.


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