Pinkerton’s VEX Robotics Team Ready for World Tourney

After Worcester, the world. Or the Worlds.

The Pinkerton Academy VEX Robotics Team will be going to the VEX Robotics World Championships after coming in second in the regional tournament March 1 in Worcester, Mass. The Worlds will feature 440 teams from 155 countries.

Pinkerton fielded several teams for the Worcester event, and the team going to Anaheim, Calif. for the Worlds consists of Captain Mike Locke, co-captain Chris Albertelli, Tony Mastromarino, Nicholas Krueger, and Alex Mielens. Sean Lahey, a member of the team winning in Worcester, is unable to attend Worlds and Krueger will take his place.

The Pinkerton group also won the Create Award for their use of gearing and transmission systems.

A Pinkerton team went to Worlds last year, but it’s not old hat, according to Team Captain Locke. “It’s amazing, we’re super-excited, I can’t wait to go back out there,” he said.

Locke added that the second-place finish doesn’t faze him or his teammates. “It’s an honor to have made it this far,” he said.

Albertelli added that it is “a little humbling” to see all the other good teams from around the country. “They’re as good if not better than we are, “ he said.

But Krueger said, “I’m wicked nervous.”

Locke, the “driver” of the robot, is onstage for the entire trial, with Albertelli and Mastomarino nearby coaching him. Once he gets out there with the controls, he forgets whatever nerves he had, he said, observing, “When I get up there, I’m in the zone.”

Lahey agreed, saying, “What’s going on around you doesn’t matter. You just focus on the task at hand.”

All the boys have their own jobs, including Lahey as the designer, Krueger and Mielens as the builders and Mastromarino as programmer.

There were no “anxious moments” or last-minute disasters, Locke said, adding that there were constant fixes in 2013.

“This year has been very smooth,” Albertelli agreed.

Mastomarino noted, “At the beginning, our robot had a tendency to flip over. But by Regionals, we had solved the issue.”

This year’s challenge is a game of “toss-up,” with two different styles of ball, the boys said. One is a harder-surface ball in a geometric shape, the other a kind of beach ball. Their robot must move across the field and score goals, each of which has a point value.

The team they lost to in Worcester was from Oakham, Mass., last year’s world champions. “It felt great just getting to the finals, going up against a team of that caliber,” Locke said.

They will be in Anaheim, Calif., April 24 through 26. “We are focusing on the competition,” Locke said.  “We will have some free time, but I’m not sure how much.”

Their teacher and adviser, Ernest Biron, said it was “fabulous” to be sending a team to Worlds. “They deserve it, they’ve earned it,” he said. “This wasn’t given, it was earned.”

If they win the Worlds they will bring home a shiny aluminum trophy, Albertelli said. There’s the possibility of scholarships, too. But their biggest prize won’t fit in a suitcase: “Knowing we’re the best in the world.”