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Middle Schoolers Across Massachusetts Compete In VEX Robotics Regional Championship

FRAMINGHAM (CBS) -- A group of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders converged on Walsh Middle School in Framingham on Saturday, trying to prove their robots worthy.

They've spent much of the last year preparing for the VEX Robotics Regional Championship.

More than 40 teams from Massachusetts and Connecticut guided their machines through several challenges under the watchful eye of a referee.

Nadine and Rhoan, two middle schoolers from Marlboro, were looking to advance from this regional championship to the Big Dance in Dallas by proving they've crafted one of the smartest, most agile, or most innovative robots a kid can make.

They've come a long way.

"Our first competition, like, we were really nervous," said Nadine.

But now, as competitive veterans, organizers are trying to feed their interest in robotics by exposing them to the real deal.

For instance, MetroWest Hospital brought by its "Da Vinci," the very same intuitive surgical robot its doctors train on and encouraged the kids to grab the reigns.

"I think it's extremely important to introduce it to any new technology that we have," said Dr. Yagnik Pandya.

Doctor Pandya points out that Saturday's youngsters are naturally curious about new technology and adapt to it easily.

Many of the kids, though, will go on to be the next generation of engineers and scientists. And organizations hope competitions like this provide fuel for that career path.

But there's a more immediate pay off.

"It's really fun also," said Nadine said.

When the dust settled late Saturday afternoon, middle schoolers from North Andover, Burlington, and Framingham had finished on top.

Teams from East Hartland and Monroe, Connecticut also advanced. They'll join teams from roughly 30 other countries in May at the World Championship in Dallas.

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