CAPE ELIZABETH – Katherine Roche gave a thumbs up to her teammates, then gave a little victory shout.

“We won,” said Roche, a senior at North Yarmouth Academy.

Roche was the driver of her team’s robot in one of the rounds at the Southern Maine VEX Robotics Tournament at Cape Elizabeth Middle School Saturday. The daylong event pitted 27 teams from middle and high schools around New England. The tournament winner gets to compete in the VEX Robotics World Championship in April in Anaheim, Calif.

Participants said robotics can be addictive. Roche said she is only applying to colleges that have robotics program so she continue to pursue her interest.

“I really like building things,” said Roche.

Saturday’s tournament involved constructing a remote-controlled robot from parts provided by VEX Robotics. This year’s challenge was to maneuver the robot around a 12-by-12-foot space, scooping up beanbags and depositing them into several goals. The robots operate by software programs designed by the students and hand-held remote controls. The robot must fit inside an 18-inch-square box, but it can unfold into any size.

VEX competitions are growing in popularity, said Kathy Barber, mother of a Cape Elizabeth robotics team member. Barber wound up getting bitten by the robotics bug herself and now is the tournament organizer.

On Saturday all eyes were on Cape Elizabeth, which last year sent one of its four teams to the world championship.

One of Greely High School’s three robotics teams huddled around their robot, Ava, a formidable-looking machine with a rotating scooper.

“It is a fusion of all our ideas,” said Harry Crosby, a sophomore at Greely in Cumberland.

The Greely students said they like robotics because it gives them a chance to work as a team, brainstorming about designs and then putting them into action.

“I want to be an engineer,” said Kristin Dugas, a Greely junior.

The Waynflete School’s team, the Waynflete Flyers, was fielding its maiden robot at the tournament after forming a team for the first time earlier this year.

“It’s going OK so far, ” said Sam Frederick, a sophomore at the private Portland school.

Their adviser, science teacher Neil Rice, said the team is learning a lot about basic engineering principals.

“So our goals this year are modest,” said Rice.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com