Twenty-six teams from across Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts gathered at Thomas College, in Waterville, to compete in the New England District Pine Tree Event robotics competition.
This two-day qualifying event marked a return after a two-year absence due to the COVID 19 pandemic. For teams to qualify for the New England District Event that will be held in West Springfield, Massachusetts next month, they needed to win one of the top two awards (the Chairman’s Award and the Engineering Inspiration Award) or make it into the finals. While there were no spectators in the stands and there were limitations on team members present, there was no shortage of energy and excitement at the event.
Saturday was packed with activity as teams jumped between competing on the field for valuable points, making modifications to their robots in the pit, and interviewing with judges. A common theme share with the judges was how teams had managed to survive during the pandemic. While there were no “rookie” teams, this was the first competition for many of the student participants. By the end of a full first day of competition, The Bucks’ Wrath (Team 6329) from RSU25 went into the playoffs as the top ranked team, narrowly edging out B.E.R.T. from MSAD6.
Despite a wintery mix that swept through on Saturday night, teams were ready bright and early for the playoffs. One of the unique aspects of the playoff format is that different teams come together to form three-team alliances. This can allow for some underdog teams to be part of a winning alliance, which proved to be the case for LRTC 8023 (Team 8023) out of Lewiston as they partnered up with Orange Chaos (Team 4564) out of Brewer and Morpheus (Team 5813) out of New Hampshire. The trio won an intense final match with a close point count, a pair of yellow cards, and a toppled robot. The three finalists, The Buck’s Wrath, Windham Windup (Team 3467) from New Hampshire, and Spartan Robotics (Team 7907) from Massachusetts, qualified to go on to the New England District Event.
The day concluded with the awards ceremony that recognized teams in a variety of categories.
The Chairman’s Award went to the Blue Crew (Team 6153) with students from Mt. Blue High School, Spruce Mountain High School, and the Foster Technology Center in Farmington. A young team from rural Western Maine and made up of students from 13 towns across 4 counties, the Blue Crew came together weekly for team meetings and almost nightly during the build season. The Blue Crew brought in members from the SMART team at Spruce Mountain when it dissolved and quickly assimilated them into the team. Their inclusivity is one of their most notable qualities as they include students of diverse backgrounds and physical and cognitive abilities, and elevate them to key roles within the team. R2Blue2, the Blue Crew’s mascot, is well-known in the community and regional robotics competitions. They take him to the middle and elementary schools within their school districts, where they have worked with classes and FLL (First Lego League) teams.
The Iron Tigers (Team 4041) out of Gardiner won the Imagery Award. Decked out in black and orange, and always accompanied by their tiger mascot, Cheetoh, the Iron Tigers exemplified the aesthetic spirit of the award.
The Gracious Professionalism Award went to The Collective (Team 4906) from Mid-Maine Technical Center in Waterville.
The Entrepreneurship Award went to The Buck’s Wrath (Team 6329) from Bucksport High School.
The exciting and colorful Northern Force (Team 172) won the Team Spirit Award, whose flag-waving, neon-light flashing, and hot pink outfits were certainly eye-catching in the pit.
The Quality Award went to the Riot Crew (Team 58) from South Portland for the excellent modularity of their work.
The Innovation in Control went to the Outliers (Team 5687) from Portland’s Baxter Academy, whose effective mechanical system for climbing allowed them to consistently climb up to the highest bar in matches.
Other Maine teams competing were: Infinite Loop (Team 2648) from Messolonskee High School, Delta Prime Robotics (Team 4473) with students from Hall-Dale and Richmond High School, Radical Impact (Team 5265) from Chevrus High School, Equilibrium (Team 6161) from Gray-New Gloucester High School and The ANOMALY (Team 3451) from Sanford Regional Technical Center.
Award winners from New Hampshire included Chop Shop (Team 166) winning the prestigious District Engineering Inspiration Award, Tornadoes (Team 7314) winning the Judges’ Award, Windham Windup winning the Excellence in Engineering Award and Morpheus winning the Autonomous Award.
Award winners from Massachusetts included NUTRONs (Team 125) who won the Industrial Design Award, AZTECHS (Team 157) winning the Creativity Award.
If you are interested in learning more about FIRST Robotics Programs in the New England region, please check their website.