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Robotics team grateful for community support

by Tim Croes
Staff Writer - The Baysider
May 07, 2014
ALTON — The official U.S. FIRST Robotics season is over, but Team 319 from Prospect Mountain still has several off-season events that they will be attending.

"Big Bad Bob" will be competing at BattleCry at Worcester Polytechnical Institute on May 24 and 25, at Mayhem in Merrimack on May 31 and then one final event in October called RiverRage, which is held in Manchester.

Brian Hikel, who has been mentoring students in the robotics program for nearly 20 years, has had a hard time keeping track of all the donations that the team received to get to St. Louis.

"They have been coming in faster than I can write them down," Hikel said.

The team raised nearly $10,000 using Fundraise.com in less than a week, with a huge offline donation of $5,600 coming from the stipends of the Barnstead School Board.

Hikel wanted to thank the many organizations that have donated to Bob's journey this past season. They include: Goss Septic of Barnstead, Field House Sports of Bow, Parker House Design of Alton, the Alton Centennial Rotary Club, Walt Havenstein of Alton, Motorcycles of Manchester, Marble Perfect of Alton, Schaefferrolls Inc. of Farmington, SPS New England of Salisbury, MA, Tire Guys of Alton, Liberty Machine LLC of Pittsfield, Symbotic LLC of Wilington, Mass., West Alton Marina, Combustion Motorworks of Center Barnstead, White Buffalo Trading Post of Center Barnstead, Clarks Grain Store of Chichester, Valley Dam Feeds of Center Barnstead, Napa Auto Parts of Farmington, Locke Lake Colony Association of Center Barnstead, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Yankee Equipment Systems of Barrington and Profile Bank.

Hikel said many other individuals donated amounts, and there were too many to be listed. The team is planning a dinner to celebrate the donations and support throughout the community, which will be held in the coming weeks.

He has really felt the support in the community grow, especially after it was announced they needed finances to fulfill the dream of the students to get to St. Louis.

"We had elected officials attend a kickoff rally, we received hand written notes from retired community members with donations and well wishes, we have had students drop money into a donation bucket at lunch, teachers at the high school donated $10 to wear jeans to work," Hikel continued. "The Barnstead School Board members donated their stipends to the team, grandparents and parents of students sent in donations, the rotary willingly gave, including members giving out of their own personal accounts, parents used their professional networks to reach further into the neighboring towns and raise funds from a variety of businesses in the area. Online donations came in through the help of social media. It was truly an amazing thing to be a part of, and to happen for the kids."

The event in October in Manchester is one last event for Bob to shine at and it also gets the students interested in the 2015 season. Come Jan. 1, 2015, a new challenge will be presented, and the students and mentors will work together to make Big Bad Bob event better, with hopes of getting back to St. Louis in spring of 2015.

The students that traveled to St. Louis included: Matt Kelley, Tucker MacLaughlin, Teddy Pruyne, Eric Mercer, Kyle Barrett, Nick Pinard, Brian Brophy, Jared Smith, Derek Gagnon, Anthony Chioccola, Garrett St. Laurent, Owen Parker and Jevaun Welcome. They were joined by Hikel and mentors Ty Tremblay, Joe Derrick, and Mike Tidd. Additionally, several family members made the 1,200-mile trek out to St. Louis.

This reporter would like to thank Mike and Michelle Kelley for making the return trip to New Hampshire enjoyable while driving 1,200 miles in a Dodge Ram with robot parts in the bed of the truck.

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

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