OLD TOWN, Maine — Shortly after the high school’s robotics team took second place at a New England competition, the school’s marquee was changed to let everyone in town know about their accomplishment.
The team was runner-up in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, also known as FIRST, competition held in Boston this past weekend.
“The [Old Town High School] rookies made the cut and were invited to continue their remarkable season in St. Louis at the end of April,” robotics coach Lisa Gagnon, a science teacher, said about her 23-student team. Seven students made the trip to Boston.
“Hank Gunning and Zach Fox were the drivers of the robot,” Gagnon said in an email. “Nathaniel Watkins, Bri O’Leary and Kalee McLaughlin were the coaches, and Jacob Hall and Dylan Gilman were the ‘human players.’ Coaches stand behind the drivers and yell out advice during the game. The human players are stationed around the arena, and they help get the ball into play.”
The Old Town High School Robotics Team went to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on April 4-5 to compete in the Pine Tree District regional competition to earn the right to go to the New England competition. They returned from Boston on Sunday with a runner-up trophy and an invitation to compete at the FIRST Championship, April 23-26 in St. Louis, Mo.
“Our mission is to show students of every age that science, technology and problem-solving are not only fun and rewarding but are proven paths to successful careers and a bright future for us all,” Dean Kamen, the group’s founder, states on the FIRST website.
The team, nicknamed the robOTies, formed in October when University of Maine mentors enrolled in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers student group approached Old Town looking to sponsor a team.
“I saw a huge change in the [students’] confidence levels,” Gagnon said. “They were hesitant about working on the robots at first — always looking back at us [teachers] for answers.”
The team acts like a pit crew for a NASCAR team, rushing in to solve problems that arise.
“Now, they jump on the problem,” the robotics coach said.
Just because the rookie team earned entrance into the FIRST Championship does not mean they will be going to St. Louis, Gagnon said.
“The team is currently considering their next steps; the World Championships carries a $5,000 registration fee that is beyond the team’s current resources,” the coach said. “There is a deadline to register, so we have to raise $5,000 by tomorrow, [April 15], at 5 p.m.”
The group has applied for a scholarship through the Robotics Institute of Maine, in Westbrook, which has already provided the school with approximately $6,000 for registration and travel expenses.
In addition to the registration fee, students also will have to pitch in around $500 apiece for room and board during the trip to Missouri, the coach said.
For more information about the team can, email Lisa Gagnon at firstname.lastname@example.org.