TOWNSEND — Sounds simple. Pick up a sack and place it on a specific spot. One goal is on the floor, another, worth more points, is a trough between the two competing sides, and the third and most valuable is a small platform even higher off the ground.
Simple, unless the work is done by a robot designed, built and programmed by students.
The North Middlesex Regional High School Robotics team traveled to Anaheim, Calif., during April school vacation to show students from around the world how it is done. The three-man team came home with the division championship and second overall in the VEX Robotics High School World Championship.
Competing in such a large venue was quite an experience for the members of the regional high school team.
“It was intense and pretty fast,” said faculty adviser James Landry. He is an engineering/technology teacher at the school.
The competition took place over three days. “It’s nonstop. All of a sudden you’re in the finals and then it’s over. It’s pretty amazing,” he said.
At first, the team did not comprehend how well they had done. “It takes awhile for it to sink in. What did we just do? Everyone’s like, okay! Congratulations!” Landry said.
Seniors Justin Marple, of Pepperell, Karl Sundberg, of Townsend, and junior Andre Imperiali, of Townsend, made the trip to the championships with Landry, parents and family. One team member, senior Wessley Salinas, of Pepperell, was unable to go.
It was a long road to the world championships. During what Landry called a very successful season, the team won an excellence award and the Northern New England Regional VEX Competition.
“I think there’s just a general interest in robotics,” he said when discussing the team’s success. There is one formal class at the high school and the topic is covered in science and technology classes at the middle schools, but there is not a formal program.
The team allows interested students to go more in-depth with the engineering and technology than they could during a class, he said. The team meets twice a week after school to work on the new challenge issued each year by VEX.
Now that the season is over, the high school team plans on visiting Hawthorne Brook and Nissitissit middle schools before the end of the year to hopefully generate a little more interest from the younger students, Landry said.
The small size of the high school team presented another challenge — fundraising.
Pepperell companies Wilson Brothers HVAC Inc., The Nissitissit Group, LF Robbins Insurance Agency, and John and Laura Masiello, owners of Masy Systems, all contributed.
For the most part, traveling and funding was a family affair. They helped pay for the trip. Each team member had at least one adult family member along for the trip. Two sisters even came along for the journey to southern California.
Because it was vacation week, Landry’s wife Nancy, the executive assistant to the superintendent in the district, was able to go, too.
The team is already looking forward to next year, working on concepts and trying to recruit new members, Landry said.