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Memorial's FIRST team raises the bar

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 30. 2018 8:01PM

Memorial High School's “Cruisin' Crusaders” and the robot the Manchester team created reached the semifinals in their division at the FIRST Robotics world championships in Detroit. (COURTESY)

Memorial High School’s “Cruisin’ Crusaders” headed home to Manchester Monday after reaching new heights at the FIRST Robotics world championships.

Also known as Team 238, the Memorial students and the robot they created reached the semifinals in their division, coming just short of reaching the finals in Detroit over the three-day competition featuring hundreds of teams.

Team leaders said advancing further than any Memorial team has before is an accomplishment and experience they will treasure.

“It’s kind of been a roller coaster,” said senior Camryn Anderson, who as the team’s operations lead, oversaw logistics and other responsibilities. “It’s been a lot of emotions since it’s our last competition.”

Anderson and her teammates were waiting in Detroit to board a flight for Boston, where a bus would take them home Monday night.

“It’s very exciting. We’ve never been this far,” said senior Carl Mills, Team 238’s technical leader. “Being my senior year and this being history for us, it was a very good feeling making it this far.”

The competition ended the season that began Jan. 6 when FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — released the 2018 challenge details. Students from around the world started plotting how to build the best robot for the complex tasks assigned, which ranged from handling cubes to climbing a ladder-like structure.

The challenge changes every year, but the FIRST principles remain the same.

“The whole purpose of the program on the surface is to help introduce and expand awareness of STEM education and the careers associated with it,” said Tom Paquin, a mentor who accompanied the Memorial students.

Paquin is a 2005 Memorial graduate who was part of the FIRST team during his high school years. Now an engineer with MuShield in Londonderry, he has served the last several years as a mentor; his employer signed on as one of the team’s many sponsors.

Paquin said students not only learn teamwork, time management and project management, but life skills, “...and that’s what makes the program pretty special.”

FIRST has grown considerably since Bedford entrepreneur/inventor Dean Kamen created it nearly 30 years ago. This year, 3,653 teams from 27 nations competed in more than 150 events throughout the world.

The Memorial team was in the Tesla Subdivision, one of six in the competition, along with Alton’s Team 319 — and its robot “Big Bad Bob” — and teams from Hollis, Milford and New Ipswich. FIRST newcomer “Team Morpheus,” a Concord-based team comprised of students from four different schools, advanced to the quarterfinals in the Curie Subdivision.

The Memorial and Alton teams were part of an alliance at the end, combining forces with a school from the Rochester, N.Y., area that came up just short of reaching the Einstein Field.

“It’s really cool interacting with all these other teams that you don’t usually meet,” Memorial senior Trevor Quagliani said.

Education Technology Manchester

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