South Portland School Board applauds robotics team, OKs hockey teams

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Robotics Team placed 12th out of more than 150 teams in the Aerial Assist New England Championship in Boston April 12, earning a spot at the World Championship in St. Louis next Tuesday. 

The School Board congratulated the team on its accomplishments and approved over $4,000 in donations to the team from local businesses at its meeting Monday evening.

The board also approved cooperative ice hockey teams for boys and girls for next winter, marking the first time South Portland will have a girl’s team.

At their third event of the year, the robotics team won the Motorola Quality Award, indicating that the team built a robot that was “superbly designed” and that did not break, which is no easy feat, according to physics teacher Ralph Newell, academic adviser to the team.

“It’s not battle robots, but it’s close,” he said of the competition. 

The donations will go toward the team’s travel expenses. Fourteen students and 12 adults plan to drive to St. Louis on a 24-hour bus ride. Once there, they will compete with nearly 400 other teams from across the world.

Ice hockey

The board also passed measures authorizing cooperative ice hockey team agreements with Waynflete and Cape Elizabeth High Schools for girls and boys for the next two seasons. 

Cooperative teams for ice hockey have become common in recent years, because participation is trending downward, according to high school Athletic Administrator Todd Livingston. Because of the other two school’s proximity to South Portland, Livingston said it makes sense for the schools to merge teams.

Although low participation has persisted in South Portland for the past three seasons, he said a core group of elementary and middle school students could bring both teams to “full strength” in a few years.

This will be the first female ice hockey team accessible to South Portland students. In the past, girls have played on the boy’s team, although Livingston said that was never the “best-case scenario,” which sometimes resulted in girls moving to other high schools.

After speaking with the parents of a young female hockey player committed to going to school in South Portland, Livingston said he reached out to athletic directors at Cape Elizabeth and Waynflete.

“I think this is awesome, we’ve lost some girls to other schools because we didn’t have this in place,” board member Richard Matthews said during the meeting Monday. “They should get to share the South Portland experience and still play hockey.”

Livingston said the cooperative teams still have to be approved by the Maine Principals Association, but he is confident both teams will receive approval in time for next season.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.

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Members of the South Portland Robotics Team successfully made their robot pick up and throw weighted balls in the Aerial Assist New England Championship in Boston on April 12, where they placed 12th. The team moves on to the World Championship in St. Louis next week.