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Robotics team looking for more competition

Group hoping to raise funds to attend additional tournament

by Tim Croes
Staff Writer - The Baysider

PICTURED WITH BOB are members of the Prospect Mountain High School Robotics Team. The group of students spoke to the Alton Centennial Rotary Club on Thursday, Dec. 6, about competing in the U.S. FIRST Robotics Competition. Pictured (l to r) are: Owen Parker, Matt McGinnis, Matt Breuer, Brad Bugieida, Garret St. Laurent and (front) Lauren Breuer. Not pictured are: Carter Shelton, Matt Wajda, Nick Pinard, Kyle Barrett, Tim Wilson, Zack Drolet, Eric Mercer, Jake Boyce and Emily Chase. Tim Croes. (click for larger version)
December 17, 2012
ALTON — When the new year rolls around, the Prospect Mountain High School robotics team will find out what the new challenge for the U.S. FIRST Robotics Competition will be.

The students will go into build-mode and will have six weeks to build a completely new robot to compete in competitions throughout New England.

Last year, the challenge was building a robot that could shoot basketballs into a hoop while only storing up to three basketballs at a time.

Last year's team received an electronics control award for their robot design. Every year the robot is named "Bob" and the group of about 15 students is up to the challenge, whatever it may be, when the new challenge is revealed in January.

A group of students from PMHS robotic team spoke to the Alton Centennial Rotary Club on Thursday, Dec. 6, and talked about last year's competition and their hopes for this year's competition.

The team from PMHS will compete at the competition in Manchester in late February, but they have a goal of traveling to another regional competition in Lewiston, Maine in April and then hopefully on to the national championship in St. Louis, Mo., if they qualify.

The team is supported by the school district in the competition in Manchester, but an additional $7,600 would need to be raised to attend the regional competition in Lewiston.

Matt Breuer, the captain of the team, talked about the fun and challenges in competing.

"It's the hardest fun that you are ever going to have," Breuer said.

He talked about building the robot that was created to shoot basketballs for the competition.

Brian Hikel, a teacher at PMHS and advisor to the team, talked about the software that was developed from scratch by the students.

"It is not a kit that they put together and compete with," Hikel said. "They develop the software that runs this machine."

The students are very excited about the possibility of competing in the regional event in Lewiston and need financial support to make this dream a reality.

Hikel talked about the experience that the team had in competition where they helped out another team that was struggling. A term that is trademarked by U.S. FIRST is 'co-operitition,' which welcomes cooperation during the competition.

Hikel joked about the past robots being deconstructed and parts used for the other things, but said the basketball-shooting "Bob" would be spared.

"There are other robots that had to go through the organ donor program," Hikel joked.

On a more serious note, Hikel pointed out that many students who compete in U.S. FIRST can obtain scholarships to attend college and said that more than $16 million is available in scholarship money for the students who compete.

For more information about U.S. FIRST, visit www.usfirst.org and anyone interested in donating to the team's cause can call Prospect Mountain High School at 875-7500 and talk to Hikel.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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