Tuesday was the last day for two local robotics teams to tweak their latest creations. At the stroke of midnight, the Lockport Warlocks and Newfane Circuit Stompers had to seal up their robots and hope the bugs are all worked out. The teams won’t know for sure until their ‘bots are in live competition next month.

Rochester Institute of Technology and SUNY Polytechnic Institute host regional legs of the international FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) high school robotics competition. In one or more of these contests, the Warlocks 1507 and Circuit Stompers 378 teams both hope to earn enough points to advance to the FIRST Championship in Detroit in April.

The competition incorporates the STEM and STEAM initiatives in local schools, meaning a focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math education.

The teams’ robots have been constructed from a variety of objects, some common and some not, and they are computer-programmed to complete tasks such as picking up cubes and climbing a wall. They were designed by students following the 2018 game plan put out by FIRST. “Power Up” challenged robotics teams to build a ‘bot that can work with two other ‘bots to gain control of a giant scale and even climb the scale, all for points.

According to Lockport High School technology teacher Jim Rogowski, who advises the Warlocks, FIRST announces the game of the year in early January and then teams have six weeks to design and build a robot for the game.

Lauren Seymour, a senior at Newfane High School and president of the Circuit Stompers, compares the contest to an old, eight-bit video game. She’s confident about her team’s chances going into the regional contest at SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

“I think it’s going be a really high scoring game this year (and) I’m excited,” she said. “I’m super excited.”

Warlocks 1507 team member Jeremy Stoddard says his team’s chances at RIT look very good, too, because its ‘bot is “very versatile.”

“I feel like we’re very versatile in helping other teams, because we can climb and do the scale and the switch,” he said.

FIRST robotics competition gives high school students an education that they could not receive anywhere else, according to Rogowski.

“It teaches kids communication skills, problem solving skills, trial and error and figuring out engineering skills, working as a team to build something,” he said. “This isn’t something you learn in a classroom. This is true STEAM and STEM technology.”