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Sack Attack: Sci-fi meets real life at VEX competition in Derry

Union Leader Correspondent

November 18. 2012 7:56PM
Students from Pinkerton Academy work on one of their robots over the weekend. (ADAM SWIFT PHOTO)

DERRY - It wasn't exactly the final scene from the sci-fi movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still," but at Pinkerton Academy on Saturday, robots were definitely the stars of the show.

The host school had six teams of five students at the event competing alongside about 30 other high school teams from southern New Hampshire in the Astro VEX Blast-Off Robotics Competition.

The day-long competition had teams battling against each other with robots created from the VEX Robotics Design System. Each year, VEX challenges students to compete in a different task or contest using robots as a way to test the students' mechanical and critical thinking skills.

This year, the students and robots squared off in Sack Attack, a contest developed by educational and robotic products designer Innovation First, Inc.

The students' task was to have the robots lift bean bag sacks from the competition field and deposit them in a bin.

The Pinkerton Academy robotics teams are traditionally among the best in the state at this type of competition. Last year, one of the school's teams made it to the world championships in San Diego.

For Pinkerton senior Cameron Martino, in his third year in the robotics competitions, the small groups encourage teamwork and provide a hands-on approach to problem solving.

"It's a different task every year," said Martino. "There are a lot of teams that reuse designs from past years, but the key components can change."

Most of the students who take part are in the school's engineering program, but anyone can join, said Pinkerton engineering teacher and robotics program coordinator Joe Cunningham.

At Saturday's Pinkerton event, nearly 50 teams competed. Teams compete in the local competitions in order to move up to the state and world championship competitions, as the Pinkerton Academy team did last year."

There are a lot of great teams and adult volunteers out there," said Cunningham.

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