Robotics team gets donation and pays it forward

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JAY — Encouraging high school students to turn their interest in science into careers is one of the goals of the Maine Society of Professional Engineers (MSPE). And many of the students on the Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team (SMART) are well on their way toward doing that.

The team received a $1,000 donation from the MSPE at a school assembly Jan. 31. In keeping with their goal of giving back to the community, the students will be giving $750 of the money toward the Spruce Mountain Middle School Lego League team “Just Keep Swimming” to help pay for a competition in San Diego this spring.

“It’s great,” said Spruce Mountain High School technology education teacher Dan Lemieux. “Grant funding is something we’re always looking for. It’s encouraging these kids to go into the field of engineering.”

Douglas Riley, the Treasurer for the MSPE, noted that there were four applicants for the Society’s award. He said they were all well presented. MSPE Secretary Russell Martin noted that it was the third year the funding had been presented, and it’s done for one team per year.

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“Each year, we’ve given it to someone different,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

Martin also feels that the students on the SMART team and other Maine FIRST Robotics teams are learning things through their build season, fundraising, and competitions that they can take with them the rest of their lives. As a judge at FIRST and VEX robotics competitions in Maine, he has seen these life lessons firsthand.

“They learn to work as a team, which is important,” he said. “They learn what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are. It’s mindblowing what they can do.”

In addition to the SMART donation, the MSPE is giving $1,000 to the Robotics Association of Maine to help run the Pine Tree Regional competition in Lewiston in April. Additionally, the MSPE is awarding two $2,500 scholarships, based on merit, to engineering students after they complete their first semester of college.

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