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Robots rule at Dorton Arena

High school students guided robots in a competition at Dorton Arena Saturday that resembled a cross between a miniature demolition derby and a soccer match.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Twelve hundred students from across the country participated in a regional competition for robotics design at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh this week.

Robots covered half of Dorton Arena Saturday in a competition to see which robot could push most soccer balls into goals. The game resembled a cross between a miniature demolition derby and a soccer match.

Forty-four teams of students from 15 states designed the robots for the FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, contest.

"I've learned a lot, almost everything there is to know about building robots," said tenth-grader Richard Pajerski, of Cary.

Richard, who is home schooled, worked with a team of other 25 other students from Broughton, Enloe and Apex high schools. They named themselves the "Awkward Turtles" and had six weeks to design a robot. Fifteen professionals mentored the team.

"The drive modules really are complex. Each wheel can turn on its own," Richard described his team's robot. "And there's lots of chains, lots of gears."

Team mentor Rick Jonell, an electrical engineer with Dashiell LLC, said the students learned skills that could make them future scientists, engineers or inventors.

"You have to learn how to work with each other. You have to learn how to understand problems, take them apart with problem-solving skills, brainstorming skills," he said.

Richard and the other Awkward Turtles won a spot in the national FIRST championship in Atlanta in two weeks. The students can also apply for special internships and $12 million in scholarships.


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