Blue Crew Robotics Team 6153 prepares for the 2022 competition season. Seen from left during a recent session are Finnegan “Finn” Zimmerschied, Emily Hammond and mentor Cam Hammond. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Although the 2022 FIRST robotics competition won’t happen until January, Blue Crew is already preparing for the new season.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a robotics community that prepares young people for the future through inclusive, team-based robotics programs. It is recognized as a leading not-for-profit STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program for kids around the world.

Blue Crew Robotics Team 6153 is based at the Mt. Blue Campus and has access to Foster Career and Technical Education Center’s vocational education facilities. The team currently consists of 24 members, 16 of whom are new, said Blue Crew member Emily Hammond. And interest in joining is strong. Hammond predicts that “our numbers will only grow as the season continues,”

The new FIRST game has transportation as its theme. “The teaser talks about travel via land, and air. Another more obscure form of transportation that is described is mental transport to other worlds through film,” wrote Hammond in a recent email.

“Transportation drives us forward — impacting economies, bridging cultures, and making us all more globally interconnected,” the FRC website states. “FIRST Robotics Competition teams will be challenged to reimagine the future of safe, high-speed travel and lightning-fast deliveries through innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork.”

Blue Crew attended Aerospace Fest in New Hampshire in September. Emily Hammond explains the team’s competition robot, Juggernaut, to an interested child. Submitted photo

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, in-person FIRST competitions have not been held since March 2020, but that hasn’t affected the collaboration between the Blue Crew members, who’ve kept busy.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, team members met in adviser Richard Wilde’s room to disassemble the 2019 robot, named Hatchcalibur. “I’ll explain all the different components,” mentor Cam Hammond said. “Everything here is what you’ll use on the new robot come January.”

Pointers on safety were provided by Finnegan “Finn” Zimmerschied. “Long hair needs to be put up,” she said. “Use tools as they are meant to. If you don’t know how a tool works, have a mentor do it. If you have questions, talk to someone. Don’t just go in blindly.”

As work on the robot began, Cam Hammond explained how the wireless router functioned. On the competition floor, a robot is known by its radio or router, he said. The radio can be connected through a laptop but while in competitions, wired ethernet is used.

“Wireless will actually disrupt the field, so we have to plug in directly to our laptops if we want to make any changes or if we want to test something,” Cam Hammond said. “It creates a network on the robot.”

Five team members and three mentors had attended the Aerospace Fest in Concord, New Hampshire, on Sept. 4.  “It was a beautiful day to share what we knew with the visitors,” recalled Hammond.

The group’s goal for that event was to spread knowledge of FIRST robotics and their team. On display were several of the robots Blue Crew had built,  including an impressive creation called Juggernaut. According to Hammond, attending kids had a great time trying to catch the balls that Juggernaut threw at them.

Members of Blue Crew have been invited back to next year’s Aerospace Fest — and when they go, they might be stronger than ever, with the experience of the 2022 FIRST robotics competition under their collective belts.

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