It was "rockin' robots" at The Wellington School when teams from four states converged to compete Jan. 12 at the Ohio FIRST Tech Challenge central region qualifying tournament.

It was "rockin' robots" at The Wellington School when teams from four states converged to compete Jan. 12 at the Ohio FIRST Tech Challenge central region qualifying tournament.

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The program is for students in grades seven through 12.

The tournament was organized and run by Wellington students, teacher Matthew Spencer said.

"We had several people come up to us and say this was the best-run tournament they have been to," he said. "We got more games in and finished early."

The Wellington robotics team, Trash Torque, finished fifth among the top 10 award-winners and eighth in regular play. The team placed or won four of the seven awards, including the Connect, Think, Inspire and Design awards and will advance to compete in the state championship Feb. 16 in Cincinnati, Spencer said.

"The placement for the tournament is based on awards and straight-out performance on the field," Spencer said. "The top award is the Inspire Award and there are two alliances of three teams each who play in the finals, referred to as the winning alliance and the finalist alliance."

The top team and winner of the Inspire Award was Team Hacksaw from Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio.

Other teams finishing in among the top were the Quantum Barracudas from Strongsville; Innovators Robotics Inc. from Englewood; the RoboCats from Whitefield Academy in Louisville, Ky.; and the Mech-Hampsters, a home-school group from Martinsville, Ind.

Wellington's Trash Torque was second runner-up for the Inspire Award.

Junior Gabrielle Smith, a member of the Robotics Club, was head coordinator for the event.

"This is our third year being involved in this competition," she said. "Last year was the first time we held the qualifying tournament and the year before that, we hosted a scrimmage for the event."

The 23 teams of 260 students were mostly from high schools in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana, although a few were from middle schools, she said.

Smith said Wellington won 10th place overall at an earlier tournament held Jan. 5 in Cincinnati.

"We won the best robot design and were runner-up for engineering notebook," she said. "A big part of the whole tournament is to focus on recording our work. That was one of our goals this year -- to get our engineering notebook beyond what it was in the past. The notebook pretty much shows how we got from point A to point B."

She said about 30 students are involved in the Robotics Club and class at Wellington.

Robot tasks change with each tournament, but include such things as getting rings off a PVC pipe and onto another pipe, using a Tic Tac Toe effect, Smith said.

"You have three different levels where you have to hang up the rings," she said. "In the last 35 seconds, you have the end game and are paired with another robot. If you raise up the other team's robot and keep it in the air in the end game, you get more points."

The Ring It Up task requires students to use a combination of motors, controllers, wireless communications, metal gears and sensors, including infrared tracking and magnet-seeking to program their robots, she said.

"At Wellington, we believe that the FIRST Tech Challenge empowers our students to think like engineers and scientists," said Rob Brisk, head of school. "The program integrates right into our classrooms with measurable results. On top of that, the kids love it."

Smith said the Jan. 12 event was conducted in Wellington's two gymnasiums -- one where the games were played on practice fields and one where teams set up their pits and pit crews.

"Each team has their own little space to make sure everything is all right with their robot," she said.

Every robot had to go through hardware and software inspections, which began the night before the tournament.

"If they do not pass inspection, they have another chance for inspections the day of the tournament," she said.

Smith said this was the first year a student coordinated the tournament. She began working on it in September.

"It has been a long three to four months and the tournament is a long day, but a fun day," she said.

The Wellington School offers a full year Robotics class in the Upper School Science program for students who want to participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge.