Thornton Academy students Brandon Delisle, left, and Carl Meserve display the winning robot they have built and designed. COURTESY PHOTO/Katy Nicketakis

Thornton Academy students Brandon Delisle, left, and Carl Meserve display the winning robot they have built and designed. COURTESY PHOTO/Katy Nicketakis

SACO — By this time in their senior year, many students are starting to get antsy for graduation. Not the case for seniors Brandon Delisle and Carl Meserve who have remained laser focused on the task at hand.

They have been spending hours in the Engineering lab at Thornton Academy perfecting their robot to compete in the Vex Robotics Competition.

In their most recent competition on Jan. 27 at Leavitt Area High School in Turner, Delisle and Meserve, and their robot won first place. In their two previous competitions, they finished in second place.

The Vex Robotics Competition is a world-wide championship with thousands of teams. This year’s competition is entitled “In the Zone” and challenges the robot to place yellow cones on larger red or blue cones to earn points for the team.

The next challenge will be the state tournament in Biddeford on March 3. Delisle and Meserve are hoping to come out on top in that tournament too. If they do, they will qualify for the world championship.

“If it goes like the other ones, it’s going to go pretty well,” Delisle said about their prospects for the state tournament.

They have both taken engineering classes at Thornton Academy where they first learned about robotics. Engineering teacher Chris Hall advises the robotics club and serves as a mentor for the boys.

Building a robot is complex and takes hundreds of hours. Meserve does the programming for the robot and drives it during competitions. Delisle is in charge of construction and design. Their current robot was influenced by the one they built last year.

“We kept the design for lifting a case and it worked well.  We made the claw through trial and error,” said Delisle.

One unique aspect of the Vex competition is that it is cooperative among different schools. There are multiple rounds in each contest and each team is randomly assigned to be a part of an alliance of three teams.

“What I love about the process is that you have to make connections. You may be paired up with one of your opponents in the next round,” said Hall.

Both stduents are planning to become tradesmen after graduation. Meserve is studying to become an electrician and Delisle hopes to pursue a career in Robotics. Both boys will use the technical and troubleshooting skills that they learned building the robot and competing in tournaments as they pursue hands-on careers in the future.

Thornton Academy, founded in 1811, is a co-educational, private boarding and day school serving grades 6 through 12. Located in the city of Saco, it is one of the nation’s longest operating independent schools and one of only three Apple Distinguished Schools in Maine.

The Academy offers a diverse academic curriculum including more than 200 courses, a new $2 million STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) Center, an award-winning visual and performing arts program, competitive athletics including 24 different sports teams, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.

For more information, visit www.thorntonacademy.org.