Return to Headlines

Westford Robotics Teams Flourish at State Championships

Westford Robotics Teams Flourish at State Championships



On Saturday, January 28, four FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams from Westford School traveled to Norwich University to compete against a field of 30 other teams in the FLL Vermont State Championships.



This group of middle-school engineers (grades 4 through 8) devoted some 60+ hours over the season to designing, building, and coding autonomous robots capable of accomplishing as many point challenges as possible in two minutes and 30 seconds. Their robots included countless lines of code, complex real-time sensors to make split decisions on the field, and functional PTO (power take-off) systems – all uniquely created by the students from Lego Mindstorms.



Equal in importance to the robot was the Innovation Project, where teams were tasked to identify a real-world problem within the season’s theme of ‘energy,’ and then propose and prototype a solution. These inventors collaborated and shared with both experts and users to research,  improve their designs, and define the potential impact of their inventions. Teams delivered a formal presentation of their process and product to a panel of judges.  



Finally, teams are judged on their Core Values – the ways that they build a strong team capable of working together with gracious professionalism, as well as sharing their passion for inspiring others in the community.  



Westford teams finished the exciting day by claiming half of the championship’s awards!

  • Engineering Excellence Award - Pickle Pandas

  • Motivate Award - Interplanetary Pizza Pandas

  • Rising All-Star Award - Muddy Pandas

  • Innovation Project Award - Panda-Monium!



These students are truly inspiring and are redefining the possibilities for our next generation of Vermont engineers, scientists, and inventors. 



Innovation Projects:

  • The Pickle Pandas were shocked to find that over 20% of power grid disruptions were caused by squirrels. They built and programmed a device to protect both squirrels and transformers by detecting approaching animals and deterring them with audio and visual warnings, logging that activity to inform better placement and usage. When installed in dry, remote areas this device could prevent forest fires started when zapped animals catch fire and fall to the ground.  

  • The Interplanetary Pizza Pandas architected an on-demand and preplanned micro-transit system for towns like Westford. It is designed to reduce single-passenger vehicle usage in a rural community with no public transportation system. Accessibility and reduced carbon emissions are just two benefits of this visionary approach to transforming transit.

  • The Muddy Pandas were inspired to find ways to reduce energy consumption through translating the confusing raw usage data currently provided by smart meters into actionable, motivational text notifications. By comparing current readings to previous usage patterns, the team created a system where users are automatically alerted to potential problems and opportunities or congratulated for their conservation efforts in metrics that matter to them.  

  • Panda-Monium! envisioned a distributed, expandable community solar project with battery backup to minimize power outages and improve Westford's electrical reliability. The system was designed as multiple smaller systems located at key locations around town that were able to generate enough energy to meet the current electrical needs of the community as well as provide a minimum of four hours of backup power in the event of unexpected power failures.



Interested in learning more about FIRST Robotics? Contact Mark Drapa at