JAY — The Spruce Mountain Area Robotic Team (S.M.A.R.T.) kicked off their 2014 robot build season with a public pasta supper on Saturday with high hopes and a team of energetic, inspiring teenagers. Along with pasta, a wide assortment of foods were on the menu, and a video outlining the team’s accomplishments in the past was featured.

Led by Spruce Mountain High School teacher Dan Lemieux, and Middle School teacher Rob Taylor, the groups work throughout the year to compete at both the State and National levels in all divisions.

Maine has some great opportunities for kids to play hard at science and technology. For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, (FIRST) Robotics is just that kind of opportunity, high school students working side by side with professionals in education and industry, developing skills and relationships that will last a lifetime.

The star of Saturday’s event was their 2013 robot and its older brother, who entertained interested guests in the hallway. The robots were surrounded by people wanting to know more about this impressive undertaking.

For those gear-heads, the 2013 model has a six-wheel drive train, a 48 to 1 planetary gear box, and something most of us would recognize, a wireless router, like the ones bringing remote communication to our laptops and other portable devices, all powered by a 12-volt lithium battery.

Known officially in competition as Team # 3930, the team had returned earlier in the  day from the University of Southern Maine, Portland Campus, where the First Robotics Competition (FRC) Kick Off was held and were perusing the rules and regulations. The build season starts Jan. 5 and team members will be working almost non-stop.


“We have just six weeks to finish the project so we can compete at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachussets,” said Adam Gettle, a senior at SMHS. This event takes place March 6-9th.

At the kick-off event FRC teams were shown the Aerial Assist playing field and received a kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC, and a mix of automation components, and only limited instructions.

“We will start meeting this week,” said Gettle, “We start designing, on paper, with mock-ups made of wood, metal, any materials available.”

The team works with adult mentors, but students only have have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s first engineering challenge in Massachusetts. Once these young inventors build a robot, they will participate in several competitions designed to measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students. They will start at WPI, but have plans for a qualifying event, Pine Tree Regional Robotics Competition in Lewiston in April and the New England Regional in Boston.

The 2014 game is called “Aerial Assist,” and is played by two Alliances of three teams each. Alliances compete by trying to score as many balls in goals as possible during a two-minute and 30-second match. Additional points are earned by robots working together to score goals, and by throwing and catching balls over a truss suspended just over five feet above the floor as they move the ball down the field.

“Cooperation and teamwork are the goals for these competitions, and being able to work safely,” said Sam Brenner, the team’s safety leader.


The robot this year will be a 24″x 36″ robot which can stand as tall as 88 inches and weigh 150 pounds. These robots are expensive to build and the students hold events like the pasta dinner and auction to help with the costs, which raise about $10,000 annually.

Teamwork is the key, and not just among the students. Build season starts Jan. 5 and they need team mentors and sponsors as well as donations of time and money. These volunteers lend their time and talents to guide the team.

“This is as close to real world engineering as a student can get,” said Lemieux. “Now that our local school system has become Regional School Unit #73 and now have one high school of 535 students, we can offer new and exciting programs.

The offerings include pre-engineering classes in high school, along with LEGO robotics at middle school level.

“Part of our program includes mentoring middle school students and a summer robotics camp here,” says Gettle.

Both he and Brenner have engineering studies planned for their future. Gettle will be going to Word of Life Bible Institute in the fall and then plans to major in mechanical engineering. Brenner, a junior at SMHS, has one more year to plan, but also plans a future in engineering.


Adam Gettle, Chloe Flagg, Angelina Couturier and Michael Chavez are going through the rules and specifications for their 2014 robot.

At the kick-off event in Portland, the team received basic instructions, height and weight limitations and other information. From left are Sam Brenner, Adam Gettle, Chloe Flagg, Angelina Couturier and Dustin Jones (wearing hat).

At left, Adam Gettle demonstrates some of the robot’s capabilities. At right is Sam Brenner.

As the newest challenge was explained on the screen, a well-attended pasta supper was served.

Team member Michael Chavez looks over the table of auction items, which held a variety of baked goods.

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