Photo Gallery: Mount Everett Robotics


SHEFFIELD -- They believed the robot was the best one they've ever made.

So before going into Saturday's FIRST Robotics Competition at Bridgewater State University, Mount Everett Regional High School students felt they had a good chance to come out on top.

And despite mechanical failures that led to an early disappointment, the team managed to come out on top, and will advance to the regional competition in York, Pa., April 3-5, competing against tougher, faster robots from Maine to Virginia. The winners there will advance to the World Championship in St. Louis at the end of April.

"I really can't wait," co-captain junior Max Lowenstein, 17, said. "It's going to actually be fun. If we just do good, it's just the experience of moving past Massachusetts."

The robotics team also won a state championship last year, but this is the first time they'll advance to the next round due to a competition format change that includes a new round that allows more teams to compete for the championship.

Founded in 1989, the competition -- FIRST stands for "for inspiration and recognition of science and technology" -- seeks to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.

Schools are charged with making a robot using a toolkit, which is then teamed with other robots to perform on an obstacle course. Competitors earn points by completing skills, which includes creating an auto-pilot program that will allow the robot to perform tasks independent of an operator.

The robot must perform other task that include dumping blocks in a bin and turning a crank, which aims to promote programming and engineering skills in students.

Saturday's competition took place in the Bridgewater basketball gymnasium before packed bleachers.

"You're either sitting in the bleachers with a full gym watching the robots compete or you're in the pit, scrambling, fixing screws or modifying a program," Lowenstein said. "It's hectic but fun."

The Mount Everett team's robot, "Higgs Bot," initially finished in 13th place out of 32 teams. However, the top four teams that advanced to the championship round needed partners -- which opened the door for the Higgs Bot to compete again.

Given a second opportunity, the robot helped lead to a rout of a win.

Co-captain Kosta Casivant, 16, said he realized their robot might be a winner after their team notched the highest score of the competition in the first playoff round against the first-seeded team.

"We broke our high score earlier in the day," Lowenstein said.

After advancing from the semifinals to the three-round championship game, the Higgs Bot partnered well with the other team another robot to win the first round. They'd lose the second round, but blow by the competition in the third round scoring 271 points to 63 scored by the other team.

"They are obviously a group that works well together, but they are also self-motivated, intelligent kids," robotics adviser Chris Thompson said. "It doesn't take me pounding them to stay after school on this."

To reach John Sakata:
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On Twitter: @jsakata