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CONCORD — Jacob Eldred of Trinity High School guided his aluminum contraption toward an opponent's robot, keeping the other robot from scooping up bean bags to place in goals during the final round of the VEX Robotics challenge held Saturday at the New Hampshire Technical Institute.
After the minutes ticked by, Eldred and his teammates were crowned regional champions of a robotics challenge that its organizers call a less expensive, more accessible alternative to the large-scale FIRST Robotics competition, whose regional contest was held last week at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
Dan Larochelle of the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, who is one of the event's organizers, said schools pay registration fees of $75 for the first team and $25 for each additional team, then competition entry fees that range from $35 to $50. Kits to build the robots start at $550.
By comparison, the entry fee for one team for the FIRST program ranges from $5,000 to $6,500, which buys a team the robotics kit and entry to one competition.
Fees are $4,000 for additional regional events and $5,000 for the FIRST championship.
"It's more affordable, more accessible and more sustainable," Larochelle said of the VEX competition.
Dave Kelley, mentor for the eight teams Pembroke Academy entered into the VEX competition, said Pembroke competed in the FIRST competition last year, but decided to switch venues to give more kids an opportunity to compete.
"For the money we did one robot (in FIRST), we can do eight robots here," Kelley said. "With one robot, there's only so much for the kids to work on. With eight, the kids get to own their own robots."
Saturday's "sack attack" competition called for teams to build robots that place bean bags in various goals in a square field.
Robots could either score on goals or defend against opposing robots.
Eldred's team — he was part of an alliance that included a team from Pembroke Academy and from North Middlesex Regional High School in Townsend, Mass. — outlasted 71 other teams to claim the regional title. Six teams from the regional competition qualified to compete in the VEX world championships, which will be held April 17 through 20 in Anaheim, Calif., Larochelle said.