Spruce Mountain Middle School has five teams that will be competing at the Western Maine LEGO League Qualifier on Saturday, November 23, at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay. From left, Just the Incredible 6 members Adriah McHugh, Brenden Veilleux and Skyler Condon work on their innovation project while mentor Jeff Bailey looks on. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — Spruce Mountain Middle School students preparing for the Western Maine FIRST LEGO League Qualifier later this month will have a new theme plus new rules and a different table configuration to adapt to.

On Saturday, November 23 at Spruce Mountain High School up to 24 FIRST LEGO League (FLL; FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) teams from central Maine will compete for awards and a slot at the Maine FLL Championships at the Augusta Civic Center December 14. Five of those teams are from SMMS.

In FIRST Lego League, students ages 9 through 14 design, build and program Lego Mindstorm robots to compete on a 4’ x 8’ table. FIRST LEGO League challenges kids to think like scientists and engineers. Teams will choose and solve a real-world problem. They will also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a set of missions during the robot games. There is also an innovation project competition involving a five-minute presentation on a related issue.

This year the theme is City Shaper. SMMS FLL advisor Rob Taylor said some might question how to make the City Shaper theme apply to rural Maine.

“The innovation project is very much open-ended,” he said. “Teams can research a problem involving a building or public space, develop an innovative solution. Students can make it relative to them, their community.”

Taylor has been meeting two evenings a week with members of the middle school teams. Some of the 32 participating students come once a week, others come both nights as their schedules allow.


At a recent meeting, Taylor said he was seeing a lot of good stuff going on as students worked on their research projects or robots.

SMMS students are preparing for the Western Maine FIRST LEGO League Qualifier later this month. Pictured from left are mentor Duane Fournier, Tateum Leclerc and Aalyah Herrera at the robot game table. They are working on one of the missions that will be part of the City Shaper theme this year. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

“Some of you are asking some really good questions,” he said.

With only a few weeks until the qualifier, everyone is feeling the pinch for time to complete their research and prepare their presentation.

Students on the Space Savers team were researching putting solar panels on top of a structure to supply electricity.

Trevor Hogan said they had researched the amount of electricity produced per year and what type of solar panels they would need to use.

“Electricity is usually always running. We need to figure out if we should use a few big panels or a bunch of smaller ones,” he said.


Just The Incredible 6 team was working on a non-alcoholic based sanitation method for the Western Maine Play Museum in Wilton.

Adriah McHugh said, “Years ago, alcohol-based sanitizers were used so much in the primary school students were getting it in their mouths, giving a drunk effect to them.”

Teammate Brenden Veilleux said they are still working on what to use in its place.

Later McHugh and teammate Tateum Leclerc were at the robot table trying to find the best way to complete one of the many missions that are part of the program’s robot games. Mentor Duane Fournier gave suggestions on what they might do to be successful.

Tacocat members Blake Gemelli at left and Connor Jordan work on their robot. Five SMMS teams will compete at the Western Maine FLL Qualifier Saturday, Nov. 23 at the high school in Jay. Picasa

Blake Gemelli and Connor Jordan are part of the Tacocat team studying pollution. That name was chosen as it is the same spelled backwards as forwards.

Gemelli said at first they were looking only at the Androscoggin River but have expanded to include the whole state.


Jordan said they were working on building a machine to take up water, centrifuge it.

“If it spins fast enough, goes through a big line of filters, it removes trash and impurities,” he said.

The Silent Bot Deadly team was working on making bathrooms cleaner in public spaces. Some were busy at their laptops checking out ideas and conferring with one another on what would work and what wouldn’t. Others were working on their robot for the robot games.

Taylor said there are some changes this year. The research project is now called an innovation project.

“This program has always wanted the kids to share what they learned,” he said. “This year teams will share their project with someone who would have an interest in it, gather feedback and improve their presentation for the judges.

“The table and table rules (for the robot games) are very different this year. We have to start from scratch, forget everything we knew about it.

“A black space has been added before the home base. The robot can return there. All parts, connections needed will be kept in that area. There will be no carts this year.”

At the qualifier Nov. 23, the public is invited to attend the robot games in the afternoon.

SMMS will have five teams competing at the Western Maine FLL Qualifier on Saturday, Nov. 23. Some members of the Silent Bot Deadly team are pictured, from left Alex Grimaldi, Eli Moffett, Ethan Egdall, Eugene Atwood and Connor Roy. Not pictured are Kasey Burns and Hunter Bibeau. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Members of the SMMS FLL Space Savers team include from left Samuel Geissinger, Sophie Steward, Jordyn Breton, Trevor Hogan and Brooke Littlefield. Not pictured was Mason Labonte. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

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