North Adams 4-H S.W.A.T. takes home Berkshire Robotics Challenge crown

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LENOX — Two months prior to Saturday's Berkshire Robotics Challenge, North Adams 4-H S.W.A.T. scrapped the robot they spent months designing and building.

The blow-it-up, start-from-scratch strategy paid off for S.W.A.T. (Students Winning at Technology) as they captured the 18th annual Lego-based competition at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School. The high-tech whiz kids defeated the team from Herberg Middle School in Pittsfield, 79-65, for their first title in the nine years they have entered the event.

The North Adams' robot, which also won Best Mechanical Design, resembled a yellow and black Humvee — box-like and bulky — that was flush against the playing surface.

"We made a robot that would glide along without wheels," said 12-year-old Nick Lescarbeau.

Lescarbeau and 13-year-old Owen Vareschi, operated the unique robot that was conceived by the two students from Colgrove Elementary School in North Adams and their five teammates: Aidan Roberts, Brian Czarnecki, Thayne Carlo, Sean Mullen and J.T. Mullen.

S.W.A.T was among the 26 Berkshire County teams who competed in this year's challenge with the theme, "Animal Allies." The more than 180 students ages 8 to 14 used programmable robots built from LEGO kits to complete a variety of missions involving hypothetical scenarios that focused on improving interactions between people and animals. The teams scored points based on completing tasks relating to service dogs, milking cows, beekeeping and other animal interaction.

The event was sponsored by Berkshire Community College and the Berkshire Innovation Center, with major underwriting support from SABIC, The Feigenbaum Foundation, and General Dynamics Mission Systems.

Following three rounds of play in the morning, S.W.A.T. finished second behind Herberg for the best overall score based on each teams top two scoring rounds. In all, eight teams qualified for the playoffs, conducted in bracket-style, to determine the champion.

S.W.A.T. was the top seed in last year's so-called, "Great Eight" only to be knocked out in the quarterfinals, returning a veteran squad for another run at the title, according to their coach Nate Samson.

"Each year they grow as students. They figure out what works and what doesn't," he said.

Other award winners were:

- Semifinalist: St. Agnes Robotechs (St. Agnes Academy)

- Semifinalist & Best Research Project: Kontrolled Kaos II (Adams-Cheshire Regional School District)

- Sportsmanship & Team Spirit: Williams Wizard Bees (Williams Elementary School, Pittsfield)

- Best Mechanical Design: North Adams 4-H S.W.A.T. (Berkshire County 4-H)

- Most Innovative Design: Nexus Builders (Berkshire Christian School)

- Best Programming & Comeback Kids: Forever LEGO Lovers (Berkshire Christian Homeschool)

- Rookie Team of the Year: Team Boys and Girls Club (Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires).

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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