The VEX Robotics Competition, which was held on Nov. 16 at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, had robotics teams building and designing bots that could stack and place cubes within two minutes. Catherine Bart photo.

CAPE ELIZABETH — Robotics teams from middle and high schools throughout Maine showed off their building and design talents at Cape Elizabeth Middle School on Nov. 16, at the VEX Robotics Competition.

CEMS has been hosting the competition for the past 10 years, said Evan Thayer, a science teacher at Cape Elizabeth High School and the coordinator for the school district’s robotics program.

The age bracket for the competition was grades seven through 12, Thayer added.

There were six different teams from Cape Elizabeth, he said. One of the teams, Team 56J, had members who made it to the world championship last April, which was held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Team 56J, a team of sophomores, consisted of Sarah Hagan, Carter Merriam, Carmen Erickson and Evan Gebhart.

Merriam said that he has participated in the world championship twice, once in eighth grade and once again in high school.

“It’s almost humbling to go and see all the teams from around the world that are really, really good compared to us,” he said.

The requirements and games for the competitions are different each time, Merriam said, which adds to the creative element.

“[The judges] just give you a game,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you what type of robot you should use or anything. It’s all creativity and it’s like great to learn how designs work and things like that work.”

The competition on Nov. 16 was called the “Tower Takeover,” with teams building robots that could place the most cubes in a certain amount of time.

“The object of the game is to obtain a higher score than the opposing alliance by placing cubes in towers and scoring cubes in goal zones,” said an informational pamphlet that was available to the audience.

While the competition element was present, with many audience members cheering on their favorite teams, Merriam said that there isn’t any bad blood or poor sportsmanship among team members.

“The competition’s really fun,” he said. “There aren’t any rivalries. No one’s angry at someone else for losing a match or anything like that.”

The robot that the team was working on for the VEX competition had been in progress for a little less than a week, Hagan said.

“It just comes down to time because we all have school and we all are in a fall sport,” Merriam said. “It’s hard to balance that with sophomore year and robotics.”

While Hagan and Merriam said that time was the most challenging component of robotic competitions, they could use what they had learned from previous competitions and events when building new robots.

“Coming into this competition, we like to look at other teams to figure out what we should do, maybe what’s working in other places in the world because they were really good,” Merriam said. “And then we put our own twist on it. We have some friends in Massachusetts who have a bot kind of similar to this and they did well, so we thought maybe we could do this in a week.”

The team said that the work is split up based on different jobs. Hagan said she codes; Merriam drives the robot; Erickson writes out the plans and designs, and Gebhart builds.

With all of the different jobs and components, Merriam said that it’s a lot to master.

“There are so many things to learn,” he said. “I still can’t code. I’d like to learn, but there’s a whole lot of things.”

At the end of the VEX competition, Team 56J won the Judge’s Award.

Team 56D, another team from Cape Elizabeth, ended the day as a finalist, making them qualified for the next state/regional championship, according to VEX’s website.

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