SKOWHEGAN — The fledgling robotics team at the Somerset Career & Technical Center at Skowhegan Area High School should be in Boston by now, competing for a spot in the New England regional robotics competition.
But the group, Sprocketology, is not going to this weekend’s event at Boston University even after qualifying by winning big in two state competitions.
The team of 11 students from Skowhegan and Madison had to stay home because they didn’t have enough money for the trip.
“We qualified for Boston, we had the opportunity to move on to Boston, but we didn’t have enough funds to pay for the registration, so we’re not going,” said team member Sam Wilkins, an 11th grader from Norridgewock. “We’re hoping to have more funding next year so we can go to Boston and compete.”
The team needed $6,000 to enter the New England Regionals in Boston. Nine other teams from Maine qualified for the trip.
Skowhegan science teacher Scott Pillsbury, one of three First Robotics mentors at the center, said the local team didn’t expect to make it this far, so they didn’t raise enough money ahead of time for the trip.
It will be different next year, he said.
“As a second-year team, we shouldn’t be as good as we are, so it was unexpected that we got to where we are,” Pillsbury said. “Usually the second-year teams don’t get into that level. These guys did so well, but we didn’t have the fund raising capabilities to pull it off.”
The initial project was financed through a $5,000 startup grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The team, with its robot, Spock, finished 36th out of 135 entrants in competition in Lewiston recently and did well enough at the University of New Hampshire at the end of February to qualify for the competition in Boston. There were about 40 teams from Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine in the N.H. competition and about the same at the Pine Tree Regional competition.
Spock is a 24-by-32-inch robot, which runs low to the ground with 45-inch arms that are used in competition to catapult a large ball toward a target. The long arms also are used as defense to block shots from another team.
“The challenge was to shoot a 24-inch exercise ball in like an ice hockey size field,” Pillsbury said.
Wilkins said Spock is made of aluminum and other metal components and motors, gear boxes, pullies, batteries and computer parts all linked to a joystick that runs the robot. It can travel 10 mph, the students said, after some physics testing.
Eben Lenfest, an 11th grader from Smithfield, said the team began with a basic kit that included a drivetrain, wheels and electronic parts. Competitions were sanctioned by the worldwide organization called FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
Next Year, Pillsbury said, the team will have to do aggressive fundraising with area businesses and public service organizations to get to the competitions.
“We need people to know all about us — we’re doing a good thing here,” Pillsbury said. “We really competed well this year and it’s only our second year doing this. “