Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Robotics team gearing up for return to world championship

Date: 4/12/2010

April 12, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW -- Last year, they went not really knowing what to expect. This year, the East Longmeadow High School Robotics Team -- the Sparticles -- are returning to the VEX Robotics World Championship ready to win.

The VEX Robotics World Championship is a gathering of top robotics teams from around the world to celebrate their accomplishments and compete with/against the best of the best, according to the VEX Robotics Web site. The 2010 World Championship will include top teams from approximately 150 VEX Robotics competition tournaments that took place around world from October 2009 to April 2010.

The championship will be taking place at the Dallas Convention Center and Arena in Dallas, Texas, from April 22 through 24.

"We've been spending a lot of time working out problems before the championship," sophomore Josh Kessler, a member of the Sparticles, said, "especially intake for the balls."

The challenge robotics teams faced this year from VEX is called Clean Sweep. The game is played on a 12 foot by 12 foot square field on which two alliances, composed of two teams each, compete in matches.

The object of the game is to attain a higher score than your opponent's alliance by moving as many point-assigned balls as possible onto the opposite side of the field.

The ELHS team -- made up of four different squads, named A through D -- has seen a lot of success in competition this year. At the Leominster meet in October, they won programming skills and the overall tournament, which involved about 20 teams; at Boston University, they took the same awards and both teams on the winning alliance were from the Sparticles. They were also the number one seed and undefeated in the qualification rounds at BU.

The team also won the tournament at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston on March 13.

In their first trip to Worcester in December they faced nearly 50 teams; one squad made it to the semi-finals, another to the quarter-finals. On their return trip, which took place March 20, the three squads present made the elimination round and the A squad beat the B squad to win the tournament.

"After it's all done, after seven months of hard work, late nights and bad food, it will begin all over again with a new competition," Peter Van Buren, advisor to the Robotics Team and a physics teacher at ELHS, explained.

Van Buren believes the team is benefitting from all its competitions and that the Sparticles are building up a positive reputation throughout the state. "On the national level, though, we'll need years to build up a reputation," he added.

"I'm a little bit nervous about competing [in the world championship]," senior Kate Pelletier said. "Everyone there has already won a tournament."

"We want to make it to the finals and qualify," Kessler stated. "I hope we make it to the top 100."

VEX Robotics aims to bring in 300 teams for the world championship, but Van Buren is confident in his team.

"We're probably the best public high school team in the VEX competitions in the state," he told Reminder Publications.

Eleven team members and five parents will be making the trip to Dallas later this month, and Van Buren wants to thank all those that have sponsored the team so they could return to the world championship.

"It's great to see how the community is becoming aware of us and how they're willing to support us," Van Buren said.

The team would like to thank the following for their support: ELEEF, Slime (Donna Salo), PV Riders, Lenox, LM Tarbell, Lockwood Farms, Dr. Belisa Basile, Marie Angelides, Hampden Engineering, SAFCO, All States Transport Inc., Peoples Bank, Con-test Analytic Laboratory, those who donated in memory of Al Celetti, Dr. Steven Kessler, Warm Water Sales Group, Pizza Shoppe, Abide, Chien T. Duong, DMD, Niloufar H. Shoushtari, Building Specialties, Thomas and Jennifer Walsh, Weiner & Lange P.C. and ABC Health Services.

The Sparticles are also being featured on Jack Villamaino's ELCAT show "Around the Rotary" this month.

Van Buren invites any school in the area interested in learning more about establishing a robotics team to contact him via e-mail at