FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 directors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a robotics club at the Mt. Blue Campus, Superintendent Tom Ward said Wednesday.

Mitchell Guillaume, a senior at Mt. Blue High School, approached Richard Wilde, a computer technology teacher at Foster Career and Technical Education Center, about being a mentor for a FIRST Robotics Team, Wilde said Wednesday in an email.

The high school and education center are at Mt. Blue Campus.

“At first, I declined as I knew we didn’t have the money in the budget for a team, and I told him if he could come up with a finance plan for three years, I would be willing to be the mentor,” Wilde said.

Three days later, Guillaume showed Wilde the plan and they started to implement it.

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The nonprofit formed in 1989 in New Hampshire to inspire K-12 students to become interested in science and participate in technology through hands-on competition.

“The lateness of the season meant that we had to act quickly in order to meet deadlines for various grants,” Wilde said.

They applied for a $6,000 NASA Rookie Grant, which covers the cost of the robot parts kit and entry into two FIRST events as a rookie team, he said.

In addition, the new club applied for a $6,500 Robotics in Maine Rookie Grant and a $6,000 FIRST rookie grant.

Wilde received notification in December that the students had been awarded the NASA grant, and the club was formed. The RIM grant was also approved while the FIRST rookie grant was declined, although Wilde said that if a club gets a NASA grant, it is not eligible for a FIRST rookie grant.

On Saturday, the team attended the 2016 FIRST kickoff event for the Pine Tree District at the University of Southern Maine, picked up its kit and is preparing to build its robot.

According to the FIRST website, under strict rules, limited resources and the guidance of volunteer mentors, including engineers, teachers, business professionals, parents, alumni and others, teams of 25 or more students have six weeks to build and program robots to perform challenging tasks against a field of competitors.

They must also raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills and perform community outreach.

In addition to learning valuable science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and life skills, participants are eligible to apply for more than $25 million in college scholarships.

For more information about FIRST, go to firstinspires.org.

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