County Fare: Mount Everett robotics team just short of world championship bid; duo takes 'oldest team' honors at National Toboggan Championships


"Hyperspace" came within a cone of earning a chance at the global middle school robotics crown.

The eighth-grade robotics team from Mount Everett Regional School in Sheffield narrowly lost a third and decisive match, 77-72, in Saturday's finals of the VEX Robotics Southern New England Regional Championship in Framingham.

A victory would have earned the team a berth in the VEX world championships next month in Louisville, Ky.

Using sophisticated robots that look like an Erector Set on steroids, teams scored by putting cones on spires or on a moving base within a 12-by-12-foot playing surface. Chris Thompson, the team mentor and technology director for the Southern Berkshire Regional School District, tells County Fare his techno whiz kids fell one cone short of advancing to the championship.

Despite the loss, a parent of an opposing team told Thompson how impressed he was with Hyperspace.

"He said his team had been up against us all year and couldn't beat us, but that he was most impressed with how our kids worked together as well as their professionalism when working with other teams," Thompson said. "I told the kids that hearing that was better than any trophy."

In only its second year of competition, Hyperspace racked up a 50-8 match record in four tournaments since December, including a season debut 15-0 run at a Dec. 2 event in Framingham. No Mount Everett robotics team at any level had ever gone undefeated in a one-day competition. Hyperspace's near-miss at chasing a world title comes three years after the Mount Everett robotics team "Higgs Bots" qualified for the FIRST Tech world championships in St. Louis, falling just short of making the playoffs and a chance to vie for the title.

This school year, the program was supported by a $2,500 grant from the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation along with Dell Computers to prepare for VEX Robotics competitions, under the mentorship of Thompson, Paul O'Brien and Tim Newman.

Silver streakers

One of Williamstown's own, Pete Spencer, was among the thousands who trekked to Camden, Maine, during the weekend of Feb. 9-11, to take part in the 28th annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Snow Bowl.

"They braved Friday's cold, Saturday's snow and drizzle, and Sunday's rain to compete for trophies and bragging rights," event organizers said of the competitors.

This event is no ordinary slide down a hill. More than 360 teams, with entrants hailing from Delaware, Virginia, New York, California, Alaska, and even London, England, lined up to race down the 1936-era, 400-foot-long, ice-covered wooden chute. Speeds during the weekend reached up to 40 mph, and racers girded themselves on traditional and sometimes not-so-traditional wooden toboggans, many in assorted costumes with humorous team names, like "Not Fast, Just Furious" and "Eat, Chutes, Leaves."

But it was Spencer, 75, and his racing mate, Chip Maury, 78, of Pembroke, aka "Sokajiweg Rattlesnake Jack #1," wearing bibs No. 35, who earned the title of Oldest Team with an average age of 76.5 years. They were among 11 teams competing in this special award category.

Among two-person team final racing times, they came in 22nd out of 106 teams, with a best time of 9.78 seconds. Respectable, indeed.

All proceeds of the weekend benefit the Camden Snow Bowl, a municipally owned and operated public ski, snowboard and recreation facility, with unique with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Learn more about this event and the winners at

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.

Maple Fest marks 20 years

The maples may be blanketed in snow but the Mountainside at neighboring Darrow School in New Lebanon, N.Y., is ready to celebrate. Today, March 14, marks the 20th anniversary of Maple Fest, a Darrow tradition filled with music, games and activities for the campus community and invited guests and alumni. During the event, the on-campus sugar shack will be in operation for participants to view and taste the sweet rewards of this time-honored New England practice. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. in the Dairy Barn followed by all of the classic Maple Fest activities including music, face painting, maple sugaring, tug-of-war, and more. To RSVP or get more info, email Sarah Frederick at, or call 518-794-6555.


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