This year three teams from Spruce Mountain Middle School are preparing to compete in the Maine FIRST LEGO League competition at Spruce Mountain High School on Dec. 3. Pictured setting up the robot game field Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15, clockwise from left are advisor Nick Chouinard, Kohen Pelkey, Eoghan Gochenour, Emmett Bowen and Samuel Pike. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — Three teams from Spruce Mountain Middle School are preparing to compete in the Maine FIRST LEGO League competition Dec. 3 at the high school.

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

FIRST LEGO League [FLL] challenges students to think like scientists and engineers. Teams choose and solve a real-world problem. They build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a set of missions during the robot games. Teams also participate in an innovation project competition involving a five-minute presentation on an issue related to that year’s theme.

According to the FIRST website, the theme this year is based on sustainable energy. “In the SUPERPOWERED℠ challenge, FIRST LEGO League teams will explore where energy comes from and how it is distributed, stored, and used – and then put their superpowered creativity to work to innovate for a better energy future,” it notes.

On Nov. 15, Samuel Pike and others were at the middle school after school to set up the game field and work on other aspects of the competition.

Member Gage Stewart said his team was looking at using hydropower plants to cool water. He was going over his team’s budgeting and pricing and using a website “to check that stuff.”


Caleb Williams was involved with programming the robot, said he was trying to figure out different ideas for it.

Aiden Knowles was also programming a robot. “I have to figure out what and how to do the challenges,” he said. Some challenges this year are wind turbine, power plant and a television one, he noted.

Members of LEGO Laps from left Isaac Leduc, Avery Cook and Maddox Ryder work on their innovation project Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15, at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay. Three teams from the school will be competing at the Maine FIRST LEGO League competition Dec. 3 at the high school. Team member Rowdy Romano was absent. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Maddox Ryder was working on the innovation project. “We want to put solar panels on buses,” he said. “Our idea is we can have them use it for the lights and heating. When the bus is sitting outside at the bus garage it can get the energy. We found this thing called perovskites, a special kind of paint that is used just like solar panels.”

The teams began meeting in mid-September but didn’t get the robot game field until October, advisor Nick Chouinard said. Box, Sox and LEGO Labs are the team names.

Students participating this year are Aiden Knowles, Caleb Deschaine, Caleb Williams, Eoghan Gochenour, Marley Jarvis, Gage Stewart, Hunter Rocque, Lance Cunningham, Samuel Pike, Emmett Bowen, Maddy Morrell, Avery Cook, Maddox Ryder, Isaac Leduc, and Rowdy Romano.

With several years of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic and new advisors, this year has been a bit challenging.


Chouinard, a sixth and seventh grade science teacher said this is his second year with LEGO robotics, but had been completely new to the program and learning alongside the students.

“There is a steep learning curve for Lego Robotics,” Chouinard said. “Rob Taylor, the former Lego Robotics coach, and the exceptional High School Robotics team have been helping me to learn the ropes and restart the program after COVID.”

Advisor Michael Morrell, a science teacher at the high school said he had not been involved with FLL while teaching at Oxford Hills.

“Being on the school board for Spruce for the last decade has allowed me to see many presentations from the teams that were under Rob Taylor’s guidance and I fell in love with the program,” Morrell said. “Now that my daughters are in, and approaching middle school I felt the time to get involved was right. Adding to the equation was my professional move to teach at Spruce Mountain.

“I feel as though getting the word out to students about the fundamentals of FLL has been a challenge,” Morrell noted. “The break in the program from COVID really hampered the transfer of the passion of the project from student to student. That gap led to some students who didn’t know what FLL was all about but luckily some fell in love with the program.”

“It has been exciting to see students getting to work together and being creative problem solvers, but also just as exciting to see them goofing around and acting silly with their friends!” Chouinard noted.

There are two parts to FLL, Chouinard said. “There is the robot design where students work on building and programming their robot to do a series of different tasks,” he noted. “From this they learn trial and error and creative problem solving skills. The other part of LEGO League is the innovation project where students learn how to work effectively as a team to solve problems too complex for any one person to solve on their own.”

“What I like most about FLL is the challenge it presents to the students,” Morrell said. “They are given the challenge topic and then are off to their own devices [with guidance of course] to solve the challenge. Add to that the design, building, and coding of a robot to perform tasks separate from the research project doubles down on the difficulty for the teams to overcome during the practice sessions.

“However, another part that I like about FLL is that multiple students can shine as they work together as a team,” Morrell continued. “A student can love the research side of the challenge, while another is deep in code trying to get the robot to function correctly.”

Comments are not available on this story.