While the robots were doing most of the work, the young competitors who designed them seemed to be having all the fun.

Gizmos designed by 28 high school-age teams from the tri-state region converged Saturday on Greens Farms Academy in Westport for the 2012-13 Northeast Utilities Foundation's Connecticut FIRST Tech Challenge, pitting their robots against each other in a "vertical tic-tac-toe" competition.

The competition, which attracted interest from some of the state's top officials, including Gov. Dannel Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, was won by a team of students from Staples High School who call themselves the Wreckers.

"Technically, we're not really a club of the school," said Troy Fantini, 17, a Staples junior, though the teammates all are classmates.

"It's great," he said of the robotics competition. "We won all of our games, except one, which (allowed) us to advance" to the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Mo., in April.

Fantini and his teammates usually spend about 15 hours a week on honing their robot designs, he said, and much more time leading up to the competition. "These guys are like my best friends," he said.

Members of the robotics teams, including three other area schools, echoed the sentiment that the competition, in addition to sharpening students' design and mechanics skills, also fostered problem-solving and camaraderie.

"I love working with the team," said Van Barnet, who with fellow Greens Farms Academy students make up the Dragonoids. "They're really cool people."

"I love the creative problem-solving we have to do," he said, "and seeing something that you create come to fruition in the end is pretty awesome."

"They're doing really well," said Meighan Grady, who competes with the Dragonoids. "I think there's a stereotype, obviously, (but) I think they're really well-represented today."

"I really like working with robots, and the teamwork that's involved," said Alex Davis, whose team Minutemen Robotics is sponsored by the Westport Public Library. "We get to work together to solve problems in order to achieve the goal. And I love working with my hands."

The Minuteman team utilized the library's 3-D printer to create "bagel cutter" for its robot.

"We're going to try and do more with robotics at the library," said Bill Derry, assistant director, who attended the competition.

He said he loved seeing "the energy and excitement " at the competition, "and as competitive as it is, it's all about learning to me, which is neat."

"I really like the collaboration -- just getting a lot of people together and collaborating on a project," said Kyle Ryan, 17, who competed with the Jesuits team of Fairfield Prep students.

"Even if we didn't come in first at the end of the day, we developed our skills," he said.