Hyperspace robotics team debut is a hit

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FRAMINGHAM — Mount Everett Regional School's middle school robotics team is a force to be reckoned with.

The all seventh-grade team from Sheffield, calling itself "Hyperspace," reached the quarterfinals of the VEX Robotics Southern New England Championship — the best debut ever by a Mount Everett robotics team in a championship tournament, according to team mentor, Chris Thompson.

The nine-member high-tech squad overall finished 13 among 46 middle school competitors from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island who gathered in Framingham on Saturday.

Hyperspace won five of eight preliminary round matches to reach the quarterfinals, losing to eventual champions Walsh Middle School of Framingham and Locker Middle School of Billerica. The Mount Everett squad was paired with Worcester's Burncoat Middle School in the playoffs.

"It was a tremendous performance by these kids considering that they started this process just seven weeks ago," said Thompson, Mount Everett's technology education coordinator. "We look forward to all these kids returning as eighth-graders, starting them in the summer, and having a real shot at winning the championship in a year from now."

Mount Everett didn't have a middle school team until January, funded by a last minute private grant of $2,500 in order to join the VEX series.

VEX is similar to FIRST Tech Challenge, the robotics competition format Mount Everett has competed under at the high school level the past several years, reaching the world championships in St. Louis two years ago.

Unlike FIRST Tech, VEX offers a middle school division, with competitors starting to build and test their robots when the school year begins in September. Despite the late start, Hyperspace was ready to compete last weekend, warming up against an all-high school field in New Haven, Conn. finishing 30th out of 40 teams.

As in FIRST Tech, Vex involves sophisticated robots performing singular tasks on a 12-by-12 foot model playing surface. Randomly selected two-team alliances are formed each round, working together to score points within a 2-minute time frame; First Tech rounds last 30 seconds longer.

The top four teams in the preliminary rounds then get to choose their ally for the playoffs, usually one that has strengths and capabilities that will work well with that higher ranked team.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.

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