AP NEWS

Regionals journey the greatest reward for Weston robotics team

February 28, 2019

WESTON — The Weston Middle School robotics team had something to be proud of this weekend at the New England Regionals in Worchester, Mass., last weekend.

Despite the closing of the school due to a sewage leak, they were able to prepare for the Feb. 23 competition in the nick of time. Although Weston Middle didn’t place, the fact they made it to regionals became a rewarding experience on its own.

Two teams from the middle school competed against other students from 48 other teams across New England, plus one team from Bermuda. At Weston Middle, there are a total of five teams, while the high school has a team as well.

Rebecca Kaplan, a technology and engineering teacher at the middle school, has coached both the schools in robotics for the past three years and has seen its popularity grow. There are about 45 students on the team from grades six through 11.

The two teams that competed — Team 17814D and Team 17814B — had an extra tough time this year because there was a major system upgrade rolled out by VEX Robotics, according to Kaplan. VEX encountered significant backorders and shipping issues, so the equipment for the two teams didn’t arrive on Jan. 12. The students then had until Feb. 16 to qualify for the championship.

“I was thrilled to have two teams qualify in such a short time period, and then they only had five days to get ready for the tournament,” Kaplan said.

To add to the chaos, a sewage leak closed school for two days leading up to the tournament, which meant the teams’ practice field was off limits.

Considering the hardships, Kaplan students did well. “I was happy that they remained enthusiastic and excited to compete through the whole season,” she said.

Once students arrived at the competition, however, there was excitement all around. Boston Dynamics, a company that designs and programs autonomous robots, allowed students to drive its “dog” named Spot, when they weren’t competing.

At the end of the day, Team 17814D ranked sixth in driver skills, and and Team 17814B ranked 13th.

Meanwhile, the high school regional championships are just two weeks away.

As for the middle school teams, the competition season has ended.

The teams attended five competitions this year, and the high school team competed at the Bolton High School Tournament, Middletown High School, and at the University of New Haven. The middle school team competed at Middletown High School, Mansfield Middle School, the University of New Haven, and at regionals in Framingham, Mass.

Last year, two middle school teams were named CT State Tournament Champions and Driver Skill Champions and regional quarter- and semi-finalists.

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