Emotions ran high at the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics competition held at the Searsport District Middle and High School earlier this month.

Nine teams from Central, Eastern and Midcoast Maine regions competed at the qualifier event Nov. 10, where high-score winners advanced to the state championship in Augusta on Dec. 8.

Teams from Trenton, Veazie, Lamoine, Howland/Lincoln/Old Town, Hancock, Damariscotta, Monhegan Island, as well as Searsport, showed off their robots and research projects, and demonstrated their core values.

Approximately 200 people filtered through the all-day event, culminating in an awards ceremony where high scoring teams walked away with trophies and one lucky person won the grand prize raffle: a car.

The competition challenged kids to think like scientists and engineers by asking teams to solve a real-world problem in the project presentation segment of the competition. Teams built, tested, and programmed an autonomous robot using LEGO Mindstorms technology to solve a set of "missions" in the robot game part of the competition. Teams were also judged on their core values, including inspiration, teamwork, professionalism and enthusiasm.

FLL represents a partnership between the LEGO Group and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway. FIRST's mission is to inspire interest in science and engineering among today's youth.

The competitions are sponsored by Maine Robotics, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing Maine youth with mentored activities within the STEM fields, focusing primarily on robotics, with funding from The Manton Foundation and the University of Maine College of Engineering.

The two teams with the highest scores Nov. 10 were, in first place, Veazie Vikings Robotics from the Veazie Community School, and second, The AstroPacks from Lamoine Consolidated School. 

MAINEiacs Lead Mentor Geoff Cyr said he was extremely proud of his team and that it was a challenging year with many new members.

"Regardless of whether you're an experienced team or a rookie team, or a young or old team, wherever you are, whatever you bring to competition, is something that you've learned through the season, and that should be celebrated," Cyr said.

"We get to define success for ourselves, and based on the challenges that we've had this season, and based on where we were at the beginning of the season, I believe we've been successful."

Of the nine teams, six will advance to the state championship and those will be posted when teams confirm they can attend, according to event sponsor Maine Robotics.

"The top six teams at our site advance," Cyr said. "We finished seventh, so if a team ahead of us opts not to go, we will be going."

In an email dated Nov. 18, Cyr said one of the teams that qualified for the Maine FLL Championship from the tournament would not be able to participate in the competition.

"That means that the next-ranked team is now able to compete in the championship in their place," he said. "My team was the first eliminated, so we will now be heading to the state championship after all!"