BETHLEHEM, PA - The Watchung Hills Regional High School robotics team, Team 41 RoboWarriors, won the Judge’s Award and ranked No. 25 after the qualification matches at the FIRST Mid-Atlantic regional competition held at Lehigh University on April 5-7.


The Judge’s Award is given when “the judge’s panel encounters a team whose unique efforts, performance or dynamics merit recognition yet do not fit into any of the existing award categories.” 

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“Our ability to succeed depends on the tools we put in our hands,” the announcer said when presenting the award. “These Warriors ensure their ease of operation immersive design.” 


60 teams competed at the  FIRST Mid-Atlantic regional competition at Lehigh and, although the RoboWarriors just missed being chosen for the playoffs, the team was  proud of how they performed.

“I'm extremely proud of the team for all their efforts this season,” Peter Ponzio, head teaching advisor for the RoboWarriors said after the competition.  “The students needed to deal with a few unexpected issues at the start of the competition and did so while keeping their composure. Getting the robot back up and running was a collaborative effort. We were able to hold our heads high despite the season ending a little earlier than we wanted.”

This year’s competition is called FIRST Power Up. The theme is that the robots are trapped in a video arcade game and must place power cubes in strategic places to gain enough power to escape. Each match has three robots in one alliance competing against three robots in an opposing alliance. The robots are randomly assigned to the alliances for each match, and must use cooperation and strategy to win.

Team 41 qualified for the regional competition as a result of its two strong showings at the Mt. Olive and Montgomery district competitions. In both, they advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs and won the Innovation in Control Award for best robot control station sponsored by Rockwell Automation.

The Innovation in Control Award, “celebrates an innovative control system or application of control components – electrical, mechanical, or software – to provide unique machine functions,” the FIRST website says. Guidelines according to the website are:

  • A team spokesperson must be able to identify and describe the controls innovation and can trace its conception, design, manufacturing/assembly, or deployment.
  • The control system is innovative and unique. It is integrated with the machine, human players, strategy, etc. in concept and execution.
  • The innovation is practical; it addresses the game’s challenge. It is not just a cute idea and is reliable under the stress of competition.

At the Lehigh competition, the RoboWarriors ended up with six wins and six losses in the qualification matches. They overcame a number technical issues during the matches and ended on a strong note, but it was not quite enough to make it to the playoff portion of the competition.

The RoboWarriors final ranking in the FIRST Mid-Atlantic region was No. 35 out of 125 teams in all, which was not enough to qualify for the national competition in Detroit.   

The RoboWarriors are looking forward to next year’s competition and hope to build on this year’s success.

Two years ago, Team 41 reached the World Championship

For more on Team 41, go to