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March 02. 2013 5:23PM

Central captures top FIRST award


Reed Macey, a junior at Manchester Central, sets up and aims his team's robot during the FIRST Robotics Granite State Regional Competition, held at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Saturday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER -- No New Hampshire team made the finals of the regional FIRST Robotics Competition on Saturday, but the squad from Manchester Central High School walked away with the event's most prestigious honor.

The C.H.A.O.S. team, which won last year's regional, captured the regional chairman's award, which honors a team that "best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST." It also earned an invite to the FIRST Championship in St. Louis, Mo., next month.

The competition's winning alliance was made up of teams from Maine, New York and Canada. The event drew thousands of spectators to the Verizon Wireless Arena to watch robots try to score points firing flying discs.

Teams from Manchester, Concord and Nashua made the quarterfinals, but the Milford Area Youth Homeschoolers Enriching Minds team was the only Granite State squad to make the semifinals.

Mechanical failures short circuited some local teams' hopes.

Senior Brittany Lacy from Nashua said a broken switch cut power to another robot in her alliance, hurting the group's scoring and defense.

And Central team member Jamison Couture said a fellow team's robot couldn't load the discs because "their shooter deck got stuck in place."

The Central senior's wardrobe reflected his robotics team's colors - one orange soccer sock and one green one.

At least that was cooler than the eagle costume worn by Isaac Tracy, the mascot for the Standish, Maine, team. By the finals, he had shed the costume's body.

"It got too hot," he said. "Real hot, blazing."

Duct tape ruled, or more precisely the Duct Tape Dragons from South Portland, Maine.

Team member Josh Sikora donned a vest made out of orange and blue duct tape to match the team colors. "If you can duck it, chuck it," read the back.

Sikora, part of the winning alliance, said capturing the championship was one of the most intense feelings he ever experienced.

"I'm probably going to wear (the vest) for the rest of my life," Sikora said. "I'll never take it off."

The other winning teams hailed from Massena, N.Y., and Toronto, Canada.

Brenda Rand of Litchfield sat in the stands, waiting to see if Campbell High's team would be called to fill in for a faltering robot in the final rounds. Her son, Joshua, was on the team while her husband, James, served as the lead mentor.

Rand said students not involved in the competition marvel at the robotic team's work when they see the robot at school.

"It's hip to be square," she said. "It's the geek squad. It's cool."

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