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April 17. 2014 10:28PM

Manchester Cub Scout robotics team making plans for world championship



MANCHESTER — Members of St. Anthony Cub Scout Pack 118, whose VEX IQ robotics team has qualified to participate in a world championship competition in California next week, are regional winners in the first year of the program.

The youngsters, third-graders and one first-grader, won an Excellence Award at the New England Regional Competition last month in Massachusetts and are eligible to go to Anaheim, Calif., April 23-26 to compete with VEX IQ teams from around the world.

Jen Larochelle, whose sons, John and Kyle, are members of the winning Pack 118 team, said: "We did not expect these boys to qualify for the (world championships) ... so we parents have been scrambling to try and make this trip happen for them. It's such a great opportunity."

The trip will costs between $8,000 and $10,000, and by midweek a third of that had been raised. Larochelle said businesses have been approached and a flyer was distributed in the St. Anthony Parish.

There is also an online site for fundraising at GoFundMe.com/7gupsg.

The St. Anthony's Cub Scout Pack Facebook page and the NHScouting.org site have information and links for those wanting to contribute to the team's travel expenses.

Growth of the VEX robotics competition in the upper grades has been explosive and New Hampshire teams are competitive. This year, 10 New Hampshire high school VEX teams are headed to Anaheim, having won just shy of half of the 21 slots allotted to the New England region.

Dan Larochelle, regional manager for the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to bring robotics into education, said: "In its inaugural year, the program has blossomed to over 1,000 teams worldwide. In New England and New York there were about 100 VEX IQ teams."

Dan Larochelle added that the VEX Robotics competition is the fastest growing robotics competition in the world.

Dan Larochelle, who organizes all the VEX and VEX IQ tournaments in New England and New York, said he gives out grants to start new teams and new events all over New England.

The new VEX IQ program is designed for kids ages 8-14, but any student in primary/elementary and middle school is eligible to participate. Unlike the upper levels, the teams do not compete against one another, trying to "steal" another team's bucky balls, or block the other team's robot.

Like their elders, they build robots and program them. But when they participate in league matches, they win by accumulating points, not by keeping others from building point totals.

The teams in the VEX IQ Challenge can also be of any size, even a whole classroom can be a team. They can be from schools or home school groups, they can be from youth organizations, or even a group of friends.The foundation seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on sustainable and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs across the U.S. and internationally.The VEX Robotics competitions are one way to engage youngsters and sustain their interest and Dan Larochelle says the growth in teams shows it's working.

khoughton@newstote.com


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