CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — After earning their way to the robotics world championship for the fourth consecutive year, the Cape Elizabeth High School robotics team came within reach of victory last week.
As the only Maine team that qualified for the competition, juniors Anthony Castro and Luke Dvorozniak battled their way to within the top 10 competitors in the VEX Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, Calif., only to lose to the Massachusetts team that won it all.
“We did really well this year,” said Castro, who, along with Dvorozniak, finished in eighth place out of 420 teams from around the world. “It’s the best we’ve ever placed out of the three years we’ve gone and it’s the first time we have ever made it to the semi-final round.”
In all, the duo ended their fourth trip to the world competition with a record of eight wins, two losses — an improvement from last year, when they played fewer games, ending with a record for four wins, three losses.
Worldwide, VEX robotics boasts 7,200 teams, with only the best 42 making it to the world competition. The teams are separated into five divisions, where they form three-team alliances. The Cape team joined forces with a fifth-place team from China and another team from Hawaii.
This year, the competition consisted of teams competing in a 12-by-12 field with the robots trying to score small bean bags into three different types of goals.
The teams coordinate to score, as well as block or remove their opponents’ bean bags from the goals. Whoever scores the most in the goals by the end of the round wins.
Kathy Barber, Dvorozniak’s mom, said the Capers were great. “The pressure is ridiculous,” she said. “As a parent, I was going nuts.”
After winning the state robotics competition in December, Castro and Dvorozniak redesigned their Erector Set-like robot, and it paid off. Castro said it had eight different programs it could switch through during the match for different tasks.
The pair, which made their first trip to the world competition as eighth-grade students, also had the help of freshman Federico Giovine, who took on the role of scouting other teams at the competition.
The VEX Robotics competition is a test of several skills and knowledge closely aligned with what is taught in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, education.
Castro and Dvorozniak have been interested in robotics for years. They took their first robotics classes in fifth grade, and, not surprisingly, said they hope to study engineering in college — after they compete again next year, as seniors.