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CLIFTON PARK: Rocketeers rally behind robot

Lift, rack and roll is the mantra of the Shenendehowa High School robotics team as they gear up for a national robotics competition known as FIRST -- For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology -- that will take place in Atlanta, April 12 to 14.

"The kids are very excited [to compete for the national title]," said team advisor Rose Barra. "Just last week, two students were asked to make a presentation to the state Assembly."

The Shenendehowa team, known as "Team 20: The Rocketeers," recently shipped their robot, Spyder, to Atlanta after participating in the regional competition in Hartford, Conn. last month. Robots will take over the Georgia Dome when Team 20 competes with 340 robotics teams from across the country for the national title.

"It's a huge event," Barra said. "It's really an international competition. There are teams from around the world."

In a game called "Rack and Roll," teams must get their robots to lift and place inner tubes on a multi-tiered rack system for points.

"It's like three-dimensional tic-tac-toe," Barra said.

Though the task may sound simple, Barra said that winning involves some luck. Richard Kissane, who advises Team 1493 from Albany High School, agreed.

"It depends on who you get as a partner," Kissane said.

At the regional robotics competition in Hartford, Team 20 placed 18th among 49 teams.

"We were in the middle," Barra said. We knew we had a pretty good robot, but we didn't have good luck."

Team 20's luck turned around after Team 1493 chose the Rocketeers as a partner for the elimination round of the regional competition. According to Kissane, the alliance placed second. "It was the most exciting moment," Barra said. "There was this gasp. The alliance fostered stronger ties between the two FIRST robotics teams."

Additionally, Team 20 impressed the judges with its unique robotic arm controller and won the Delphi Driving Tomorrow's Technology Award. According to Barra, the award honors high-quality robot design and the students' ability to articulate the design to judges.

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