DURHAM — FIRST Robotics teams from throughout New England are battling it out this weekend at the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center.
Committee Chairman Kari Karwedsky said 64 teams from New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut had to go through two qualifying rounds before being selected for the three-day competition, which will wrap up Saturday with the final round taking place from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Of the 13 high school teams from New Hampshire, three are from Manchester. Senior Matthew Bisson and his team from Central High School were one of the first teams to compete, and Bisson was thrilled with their robot’s performance. Nor’easter was able to secure Central’s team some extra bonuses, Bisson said.
“This year, part of the challenge was to place gears on a peg so the front of our robot deploys the gears and we are also able to shoot balls out of the back. It’s a really good robot. It’s really fast this year, and it’s definitely one of the best ones we have built,” Bisson said.
Bisson’s team is already raising money in case they make it to the world championships in St. Louis, Mo. Manchester West High School and Goffstown have a combined team. Senior Patrick Dodge of Goffstown said he learns more through FIRST Robotics than he does in his school classes.
“I love the hands-on experience I get from it,” Dodge said.
Dodge said he and his team go to off-season competitions and practices year-round to be prepared for this competition. That is common for all the teams in New Hampshire.
The PVC Pirates from Londonderry High School even teach others how to build robots in the off-season to keep their skill sets sharp. Coach Mike Pettengill is proud of his team.
“They’re very dedicated and work well as a team,” Pettengill said. He reported that this year exactly half of his team are female students, and almost all of the team’s machinists are female.
Qualifying rounds continue today at 9 a.m. and run until 5:45 p.m. After the final round of competition Saturday, there will be an awards ceremony from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
The FIRST Robotics Division Championship is free and open to the public. Families are encouraged to attend.