By Lindy King

On Jan. 5, members of the Groton-Dunstable Robotics Team traveled to Manchester, N.H., to attend the kickoff of this year's FIRST Robotics Competition challenge. FIRST is an acronym for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," an organization founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to challenge students interested in engineering and science and promote teamwork.

After the challenge is announced, teams around the globe have six weeks to build a robot to compete in local competitions. This year's challenge, "Ultimate Ascent," was to build a robot capable of climbing a three-tiered pyramid structure and/or accurately shooting Frisbees into slots of various heights to garner points. At each competition, alliances are formed of three FIRST robotics teams. The alliance must score points against an opposing alliance, also composed of three teams. Each team participates in several rounds. Teams that score the most points attend final matches on a second day.

Our GDRHS team, known as Team 1277 or "The Robotomies," attended the regional competition on March 1-2 at the Verizon Center in Manchester, N.H. This was their 10th anniversary as a team. They spent six weeks in the HS "tech lab" working almost every night, Friday afternoons and most of the day on Saturdays to build the robot affectionately known as "Mr. Stubbs." The students put in many hours of brainstorming, debate, consensus, design, modeling, sawing, drilling, wiring, hammering, nailing, gluing, programming, painting and testing. Mr. Stubbs shined as the best climbing robot at the competition, garnering 350 of 360 possible points and made it to the quarter-finals. The Robotomies received the "Innovation in Control" Award for having the best autonomous robot at the competition. More information can be found at the team's website at www.team1277.org.

Attending the competition is akin to attending a rock concert, where the robots shine as the performers. There is entertaining music all day long. The audience enthusiastically cheers for the robots and the alliances. Many teams dress in unifying costumes and cheer on and dance during the competition. They all have team flags as well as identifying pins or other trinkets to distribute. When not competing, the teams congregate in "The Pit" where they can further build, fix or test their robot. This year the Robotomies built a workbench complete with sound system to organize all their tools and spare parts.

The team would like to recognize this year's sponsors: The National Defense Education Program, Raytheon, The Society of American Military Engineers and The Ted and Connie Lapres Fund. Kudos to chief mentor Justin Maynard and other parents for countless hours mentoring the team. Also, thanks to Mr. Mastrullo and high school staff.