A busted potentiometer didn’t stop the kids from Mt. Blue High School as their robot battled in St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome on Saturday.

“After every match, you use the time to fix your robot,” adviser Richard Wilde said. “It’s like a prizefighter, you know what I mean? After every round, you have to have your cut-man come over. You have to fix things.”

This is the rookie year for Mt. Blue’s Blue Crew FIRST robotic team and its robot Concussion Protocol.

The Blue Crew was among 624 like-aged teams, including Spruce Mountain High School, from around North America competing this weekend in the FIRST Robotic Championship.

“It’s such an awesome organization,” Wilde said. “When you see this many kids working this hard, it gives you hope for the future. It really does.”

The Blue Crew qualified for the championships with stand-out performances in both the Pine Tree Regionals in Lewiston on April 7 and at the New England District Championship in Hartford, Conn. It was the highest-placed rookie team at both events and claimed the Rookie All Star award in Hartford.

But their robot was damaged traveling to St. Louis and they wound up playing most of their matches this weekend with a broken potentiometer. That’s a control that lets them raise an arm and shoot a ball at a tall target.

“So we’ve been trying to get it reconfigured,” Wilde said. “We could play and we could get the low goals but we could not shoot for the high goals.”

The team managed a fix in time for their last two matches Friday and finished the tournament with a winning record of six wins, four losses. They didn’t qualify for the finals on Sunday but placed in the top half of their division.

“It’s a great learning experience for the kids,” Wilde said. “The great thing about it is that the traits on display here are the things employers look for: teamwork, cooperation, making critical decisions in a short amount of time.”

It’s part of the national FIRST competition. The acronym, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was created by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 to promote science and engineering education.

Matches are frenetic. Six teams compete at a time several times throughout the day, racking up points. Teams with the most points at the end of the day advance to the next stage.

Past contests have had robots collecting balls or Frisbees and launching them into targets.

This year’s contest has a medieval siege theme pitting two alliances of three robots each against each other. Robots had to collect volleyball-sized rubber “boulders,” carry them past obstacles and shoot them into the opposing alliance’s castle-shaped target. Once they got enough boulders into the target, the castle was considered breached and they could surround it or climb it for extra points.

Dan Lemieux, a mentor for the Spruce Mountain team, SMART, said it’s not his team’s first time at the championship competition.

“We try to make it down every few years,” Lemieux said. “The kids work so hard all year, it’s a nice reward and so much fun.”

SMART finished the champions ships with a 5-5 record and ranked 23rd in their 75-team division.

“We finished in the top third of our division, against some of the best teams in the country,” Lemieux said. “To even have a shot is an accomplishment. Our problem is we didn’t have a strong enough start. We finished strong, but we didn’t get a chance to show people what we really can do.”

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