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Zach Marais, center, a sophomore, with bright yellow hair, helps drill a hole as Marc Fredette, right, a junior looks on, for Memorial High School's team, for the testing day of the regional FIRST Robotics Competition being held at the Verizon Wireless Arena, in Manchester this weekend. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Robots are revving up in Manchester

MANCHESTER — A snowstorm didn't stop the 50 high school teams who gathered at Verizon Wireless Arena Thursday to prep for the 10th annual Granite State Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

The Granite State Regional Competition will hold opening ceremonies this morning and include an appearance by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The qualifying rounds kick off at 9 a.m. and run through 5 p.m. Competition picks up again Saturday at 9 a.m., with final rounds from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Hundreds of high school students from across New England, New York, Canada and Mexico will compete this weekend for honors and scholarship money. Awards will be given Saturday afternoon.

Students had a chance to make last-minute adjustments during a testing and inspection session Thursday morning.

The West High School and Goffstown High School team had to delay its test session in the ring after a problem arose with the robot's bumper. Isaiah Cody, a senior at West, said the setback was slight.

&#';Everything will be going by the end of today,&#'; he said.

The competition coincided with New Hampshire's school vacation week, but Dillan Murray, a Memorial High School junior who has been involved in FIRST programs for eight years, said the vacation and snow meant little to the team.

&#';Either way, we would have been at school working on the robot. The momentum getting me out of bed today was the same as every day,&#'; said Murray.

FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — began in Manchester in 1991 as a way to encourage student interest in science and technology. The FIRST Robotics competition pits teams of high school students against each other to create a robot that moves better and scores more points than the others.

Photo Gallery: FIRST 2012

This year's game is called Rebound Rumble, a challenge to design a robot run by remote that will sink small basketballs into three levels of hoops. At the end of the two minute and 15 second round, students must get their robot to balance on a bridge in the middle of the arena.

Winners move on to the FIRST National Competition in April in St. Louis, Mo., to face teams from 40 other regional competitions held this winter and spring.

This weekend's events are open to the public; people are encouraged to stop by and cheer for their local teams.

The event also includes dozens of vendors, displays and activities.

The centerpiece is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Demonstrator. Throughout the weekend, team participants will have a chance to sit in the flight simulator of a F-35 Joint Strike Force Fighter cockpit.

Other features include university and corporation booths, a FIRST Lego League display and demonstration of the robotics challenge for 9- to 14-year-olds, and a demonstration from the Nashua Police Department Bomb Squad.

For more information, go to baesystemsfirst.org.


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