RARITAN TWP., NJ - Hunterdon Central High School’s FIRST robotics team, “The Daleks, Team 3637” opened its season with a bang at last weekend’s competition at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

The Daleks -- along with alliance partners Team 219 from Warren Hills and Team 747 from Middlesex -- were silver medalists at the 38-team event, bringing home a Finalist trophy.

Team 3637’s founding adviser, Hunterdon Central teacher Kevin Mastropietro, was honored with the Donald Bowers Inspiration Award, presented at FIRST Mid-Atlantic events this year in honor of the former regional director and passionate FIRST Robotics advocate.

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The Daleks also received the Creativity Award, which "celebrates creativity in design, use of component, or strategy of play." Its winning robot, built in six weeks to compete in this year’s “Steamworks” challenge, features mechanisms that retrieve and place large gears on a simulated airship, and a “climber” apparatus enabling the robot to hoist itself alongside the airship with a rope.

Formed by a handful of students in 2010-11, Team 3637 has grown to more than 60 members this season.

Each year’s robot is conceived, designed, and built by Central students with help from teachers and mentors. The team has two advisers - a teacher and a business professional - and 23 volunteer mentors that include professional engineers, as well as business professionals from various disciplines who share their expertise in marketing, fundraising, accounting, and community outreach.

FIRST means “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” and the group describes itself as “More Than Robots.” Central’s team works year-round to spread interest in STEM fields in the community.

The Daleks volunteer with elementary school students in afterschool LEGO programs, mentor two FLL (FIRST LEGO League) teams, and hold workshops at the Hunterdon County Family Success Center and Hunterdon County Library. They have held demonstrations at the 4-H Fair, Raritan Township Community Day, and NJ Makers Day.

The Daleks will next compete at Montgomery High School on April 1-2. The event is open to the public and admission is free. Event information can be found at the website.