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Second Annual Southern Maine VEX Robotics Tournament at USM

Up to 20 middle and high school teams will compete to determine who created the most competitive robot at the Second Annual Southern Maine VEX Tournament held from 9 a.m. to 4p.m., Saturday, December 3 at the University of Southern Maine, Hill Gymnasium, Gorham. Sponsored by Fairchild Semiconductor and the University of Maine System, this event is free and open to the public.

With guidance from their teachers and mentors, student teams aim to build the most innovative robots possible to complete a task revealed each year. Played on a 12'x12' square field, the task changes, but the goal is to get the most points possible.  This year, the game consists of placing cylinders and balls into various goals; 30 inch, 20 inch and 11.5 inch high goals, and corner/floor goals.  The competition consists of a 20-second autonomous section, which is preprogrammed with no driver interaction.  This is followed by a two-minute driver-controlled portion where teams try to score, remove opponents’ points, and block opponents from scoring.  Teams will be competing all day in hopes of securing a spot to the National or World Championships held in the spring.

Each team starts with the VEX Robotics Design System, a kit intended to introduce students to the world of robotics. The tournaments then engage students in a competitive learning environment.  Through participation, students are given a hands-on learning opportunity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). But teamwork, problem solving and time management skills are also integral to building a successful robot.

The VEX Robotics Competition boasts 3,500 teams from 20 countries playing in over 250 tournaments worldwide.

Evan Thayer, math and science teacher at Cape Elizabeth High School acknowledges that the value of participating includes students seeing immediate results from their theories and designs. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; but either way it is real-world experience.

The Southern Maine VEX Competitions is made possible by a grant from Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. The Fairchild grant represents their commitment to STEM programs and the benefits of competing on a VEX robotics team. For the second year, this grant supports the cost of competing locally, and provides funds for qualifying teams to compete in the world championship. Fairchild ensures that all teams who want to participate are able, and in the process are changing the access to robotics in Maine.