Whether it's the corporate lunchroom, your cubicle, or the local watering hole after work, there are regular places we gather to discuss news, sports, or -- if you're like us -- stocks. Here at Motley Fool CAPS, we gather around the virtual water cooler daily to rate stocks and delve into their merits as investments.

The 150,000 investors in our CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to nearly 5,400 stocks -- seek companies they think will outperform the market. Below we'll take a look at some of the most popular and talked-about stocks in the CAPS universe, and examine whether you think they'll continue their winning ways.

Stock

CAPS Rating
(Out of 5)

Number of Calls

% Outperform Calls

China Petroleum & Chemical (NYSE:SNP)

*****

1,083

95%

iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT)

***

1,091

88%

Petrohawk Energy (NYSE:HK)

****

1,112

96%

SYSCO (NYSE:SYY)

*****

1,117

96%

Trinity Industries (NYSE:TRN)

*****

1,124

97%

A tall drink of water
Does iRobot actually sell that many self-cleaning robot vacuums that it can live up to analyst expectations of 25% annual growth? The answer to that question is no, but the company doesn't have to. While the home robot segment of the business grew 13% in the fourth quarter (that's a lot of Roombas), its contract work for the government and industrial customers grew more than 36%.

Admittedly, that component remains the smallest portion of iRobot's business, but the entire government and industry segment is quickly catching up to the home robot segment and will overtake it soon. Government and industry backlog stood at $42 million at the start of 2010, the highest level in company history.

As iRobot becomes more of a military contractor -- and, no, the Defense Department isn't buying vacuums, but rather tactical robots that investigate suspicious objects through video, audio, and data sensors -- it's going to compete against established contractors like Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT). That could be a trickier situation.

Some investors support the dual-track approach, however. CAPS member rlipsitz likes the buzz that's generated about the Roomba, but also likes the military side of the business.

Agree this is not sound fundamental approach but I'm going with Peter Lynch on this one. My wife wants to get one...[I've] researched the Roomba and we will get. Positive buzz about this product all over the web. Almost every one is satisfied on Amazon comments. Company continues to improve product plus they are expanding pipeline of products (pool cleaner...gutter cleaner(admittedly this [one] aint so great though). Plus tremendous military potential/under developments. Already a profitable company so I'm in.

While there's a good slice of the CAPS community that thinks it's going to underperform the broad market averages, 88% of the more than 1,100 members who rated the robot maker indicate they think it's going to outperform. You can add your opinion on the iRobot CAPS page.

Deconstructing the recession
Higher sugar prices aren't so sweet for food wholesalers like SYSCO, which are caught between rising costs of energy and the sweetener and falling sale prices as consumers continue to opt for private-label goods. Sugar prices recently reached their highest level in three decades, pinching SYSCO's first-quarter earnings between the jaws of higher commodity costs and deflationary product pricing.

With 97% of CAPS members rating the food wholesaler to outperform the market, JCastroman sees SYSCO coming out of the situation in better shape than many of its rivals.

consolidation of competition due to recession, and a reorganization and focusing on the Sysco brand

Gather 'round
With so many good opinions about today's top companies, why not grab a pointy paper cup from the dispenser and join us at the Motley Fool CAPS water cooler? Your input can help guide other investors to stocks with bright prospects for growth. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made -- all from a stock's CAPS page.

Sign up today for the completely free service, and let us hear what you have to say about the great and almost-great companies that interest you.

SYSCO is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick and an Income Investor selection. iRobot is a Rule Breakers selection. The Fool owns shares of SYSCO. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.