STEM savvy vie in regional

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Thanks went out at the FIRST Robotics Southern New Hampshire District event to numerous volunteers from BAE, whose counsel added around 35 percent of the brain power demonstrated by around 110 volunteers and mentors whose expertise in science, technology, engineering and math was freely shared with all competitors.

Cheers rocked the auditorium at Bedford High School as the winners were announced of the recent New England Southern New Hampshire FIRST Robotics Competition, “Destination: Deep Space.” Saluted were Team 319, “Big Bad Bob”, from Alton, and Team 133, “B.E.R.T.” from Standish, Maine, along with Team 6324, “The Blue Devils,” from Salem.

The New England FIRST competition, March 15-17, drew contenders from six states that comprise the New England FIRST region. More than 10,000 students and 3,000 mentors and volunteers from 210 high school teams vie for honors in a variety of programs by crafting robotic wizardry based on principles of science, technology, engineering and math – STEM.

Zach Fowler, of Litchfield, is the Bedford High School engineering and tech teacher and the faculty advisor for the Bedford High robotics team, “Red Storm 509.”

“It’s a sport for the mind,” Fowler said. “It’s for students who are passionate about engineering and programing and promoting STEM as a member of the team and as a member of the community.”

Nick Bouressa, of Merrimack, was a mentor at the event. He was a member of “Chop Shop 166” at Merrimack High School from 2009-13. Now, he is a mechanical engineer for Raytheon.

“Anyone can be a part of this,” Bouressa said. “You don’t have to come in as an expert.”

Fellow mentor Connor McBride participated from 2013-16. He noted that the 38 robots designed and built for the FIRST Robotics Competition, presented by The Boeing Company, each weigh 120 pounds. Throughout the weekend event, challenges in center field of Bedford High’s gym pitted teams that deployed robots via remote control whose mission was to gather cargo pods and transport the pods to a cargo ship outfitted with hatch panels. Hatch panels were secured. Robots were returned to base. The “alliance” with the highest score wins. McBride said it is an exciting event.

“You learn lifelong skills from this program,” McBride said. “You learn things that serve you through college and in the working environment.”

Kari Karwedsky, Southern New Hampshire District committee chair for the FIRST Robotics Competition, said the “Destination: Deep Space” event incorporated scores of students and around 110 volunteers. Staffers from BAE comprised around 35 percent. She thanked everyone who participated.

“What’s great about the FIRST events is that they can be for anyone,” Karwedsky said. “Anyone can come and volunteer and it’s really exciting to see all the enthusiasm.”

Karwedsky paused to greet Sally Gunn, of Concord, a supporter of Team 1517, “The Lumberjacks,” and Ann Brandon, a part of Team 6933, “Archytas,” which is populated by STEM proponents from schools in central Vermont. Karwedsky then added that BAE offers a scholarship program with $5K made renewable for four years. An internship at BAE is a part of the bounty and eight scholarships per year are awarded.

Information on an array of FIRST programs that since 1992 have supported the acronym, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, can be had online: firstinspires.org.

Loretta Jackson may be contacted via email: