Mars robotics teams shine in statewide tourney

March 8, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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MARS — Two area robotics teams competed in a statewide tournament last weekend, with one winning a judge's award and the other advancing to become a semifinal captain team.

The teams, Mars Advanced Robotics Squad (MARS) and The Martians', competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Lego League, respectively, each earning a spot at the statewide championship tournament in Oxford, Pa.

The tournament is operated each year by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization dedicated to encouraging and empowering students to engage in robotics and the fields of science and engineering.

The tournament's theme this year was “Rover Ruckus,” with teams competing in space-themed challenges.

MARS qualified earlier this year for the Oxford tournament and competed among the 50 best teams across the state, according to FIRST's website.

The team spent the past year building a robot from a kit and programming it through a variety of Java-based programs.

MARS is part of Mars Advanced Robotics, a local nonprofit dedicated to encouraging students to engage in robotics.

“This will be our fourth year,” said Linda Gorash, organization volunteer and fundraiser. “We've never made it to states before.”

The team qualified in February at the Pennsylvania Southwestern Qualifier, and last weekend MARS won a judges award. Meanwhile, the Martians competed in the FIRST Lego League.

According to FIRST's website, teams “design, build and program LEGO MINDSTORMSŪ-based robots to perform autonomous missions on a playing field.”

Teams are guided by an adult coach and are open to students in grades four through eight. Through the two-day tournament, The Martians advanced to become semifinal team captains.

For more information or to connect with FIRST, visit its website at

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Caleb Harshberger

Caleb Harshberger

Caleb Harshberger is a reporter covering Adams, Forward and Middlesex Townships and Evans City, Callery and Valencia Boroughs. He started as an intern with the Butler Eagle in Jan. 2017 and was hired as a staff writer in June of that year. Harshberger earned a degree in philosophy at Grove City College in 2017 and is originally from Syracuse, N.Y.