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Published: January 14, 2009   08:44 pm

EDUCATION: Lockport wins Tech Wars title for third consecutive year

By Joe Olenick
Niagara Gazette

It was a lot closer than 2008, but the result is the same: For the third year in a row, Lockport stands tall as Tech Wars champions.

More than 500 middle and high school students from 21 school districts — along with another 100 faculty, staff and industry professionals — packed NCCC on Wednesday for the competition. Tech Wars is an academically based technology competition that pits middle and high school students in multiple project-based events of skill, chance and ability. Students in local schools design and build robots, cars and other technology-based projects that they enter into a variety of competitions against other local schools and students.

One of the main events was the “Heavy Sumo Robots” competition. The goal of the event is to push the other team’s robot off a circular platform as many times as possible during a time period. Lockport students Leo Hammond and Doug Waz finished second in the sumo robots, losing out to Newfane seniors Nathan Wright and James Urban. Both teams brought to the finals a silver sumo robot with a shovel like front end that was close to the ground. That was part of the strategy, keeping a low center of gravity.

“We had a spring design that cut close to the ground,” Urban said.

Grand Island and Newfane tied with 26 points overall. Tech Wars officials decided to give the districts separate awards for second place and award Tonawanda third place. Grand Island juniors Keith Skelly, Ian Rogers and sophomore Dale Baran were among the students who competed. Baran won the 3D Solid Modeling On Site event for underclassmen. This was the first time Grand Island competed in Tech Wars.

Middle school kids also participated in some events, such as mini sumo robots, musical instrument design, mousetrap cars, autonomous robot, bridge design and carbon dioxide dragsters. LaSalle Prep School in Niagara Falls swept the bridge design competition with Anthony Paretto and Michael Soro finishing in first and second place, respectively. LaSalle’s Gregory Parker and Joey Mundier finished in third place.

Tonawanda Middle School swept the carbon dioxide dragsters, which are small cars powered by carbon dioxide. But it wasn’t just the top three spots, Tonawanda took the top five. Jacob Choate won the event, followed by Phillip Giuga in second place, Nik Zimmermann in third, Robert Greiner in fourth and Riley Gardner in fifth. The kids built the cars themselves and competed with them in a drag race. The kids attributed their success to following Newton’s Second Law.

“The more mass an object has, the more torque required to accelerate,” they said.

“We’re excited,” Choate said.