JAY — Regional School Unit 73 board members Thursday night unanimously approved Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team’s trip to the World 2016 FIRST Stronghold Challenge in St. Louis, Mo., this spring. 

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition is an annual event. Teams are presented with a challenge that includes building and programming a robot capable of completing specific tasks.

During a competition, each team first competes individually. The eight highest-scoring teams then build three-team alliances, each choosing two teams among the 40 participating teams for the playoff rounds.  

This year’s challenge theme is the medieval times. The goal is to breach the opponents’ defenses and weaken the other alliance’s tower by lobbing boulders at it. In the final seconds, the three robots on each alliance can try to capture the other tower.  

SMART has been invited to the FIRST World Championships the past two years. Due to costs and logistics, however, the team has set a goal of attending the event every four years.

Team member Austin Gilboe told the RSU 73 board that 26 students and 15 parents and mentors plan to attend. While there, the team will:

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• Compete with the robot they built this year;

• Attend many FIRST activities;

• Present its manual on how to run a Lego League Qualifier to other FIRST teams; and

• Tour the St. Louis area.

Chairwoman Denise Rodzen of Livermore Falls asked about the trip’s cost.

The total cost is estimated to be about $16,000, SMART adviser Daniel Lemieux said. The cost of $600 per student will cover airfare and food. The team was able to get a reduced rate on the airfare. 

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Rodzen was told the team has budgeted for the trip over the past three years and has enough money to support it. 

After the vote, school board member and SMART mentor Joel Pike spoke of the team’s success already this year. The team competed at the FIRST North Shore Event in Reading, Mass., where it finished in ninth place in the initial competition.

It was chosen to be part of the alliance captained by Team Andromeda One of Ayer, Mass., which placed second in the initial rounds. Also on the alliance was the Robocats Team from Colchester, Conn. The alliance placed second overall at the event.

SMART was also singled out as winners of the Quality Award at the Massachusetts event. Sponsored by Motorola, the award celebrates robustness in concept and fabrication of the robot.

Adviser Daniel Lemieux said the team is ranked 22nd in New England. Four of the 40 teams competing at Reading were from Maine.  

“We’re hoping to do at least half as well at the Pine Tree Competition held in Lewiston April 7 to 9,” he said.

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