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Warlocks seek to work magic; Lockport High School robotics team goes to world finals after second-place finish

The Lockport City High School robotics team took second place in a regional robotics competition this month in Pittsburgh, and its members are honing their techniques in preparation for the world finals in April.

The team of 34 students and 21 engineering mentors calls itself the Warlocks. The team placed third in the world finals two years ago. Each year, the Warlocks spend six weeks designing and manufacturing robots to compete in a game called LogoMotion with other teams from around the nation and the globe.

"I love competing," said junior Taylor Torrey, 16, who is in charge of the team's public relations. "Finals are the same game but a whole new level of playing. We have to step up our whole level of competition."

LogoMotion is played by two teams of three robots each on a flat 27-by-54-foot field. They try to hang as many inflated plastic triangles, circles and squares on their grids as they can in two minutes and 15 seconds. The higher the teams hang their game pieces on their scoring grid, the more points they receive.

Lockport's team is one of only three in Erie and Niagara counties that participate in the competition, which is sponsored by an engineering organization called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). Newfane School District and the Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services also compete.

The engineering group has made more than $14 million in scholarships available to competing students this year. In previous years, Lockport students awarded with scholarships went on to attend colleges including the Rochester Institute of Technology and Ohio State University.

"Kids in other high schools are missing out," said James Rogowski, president of the robotics club and technology instructor at the high school. "We're giving our kids a serious opportunity."

Rogowski founded the Warlocks six years ago with the support of professionals from companies that include General Motors and Delphi. Engineers, welders and other professionals provide access to materials and also mentor and guide the team throughout the year.

At the regional competition, the team also won an award for the best mini-bot, a specially designed robot that competes in the game, and for cooperation. Members aided a Michigan team in repairing their mini-bot prior to competition.

The world competition will be held the last weekend of April in St. Louis.

Junior Adam Stockton, 16, manages the team's website, www.warlocks1507.com, which also won an award for being the best in design and functionality.

"The experience really helped us work together and become one team," Stockton said, "rather than doing our own thing."

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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