Spruce Mountain High School student Lily Bailey, seen at the podium talks about her role as entrepreneurship captain for Blue Crew FRC Team 6153 Thursday night during the Regional School Unit 73 Board of Directors meeting at the middle school in Jay. Bailey is one of several students and adult mentors from Spruce who were invited to join the Farmington-based team last year. Directors gave them permission to travel to out-of-state competitions and events this spring. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — Regional School Unit 73 Board of Directors granted permission Thursday night, Feb. 9, for Spruce Mountain High School students in the FIRST Robotics Competition [FRC] to attend out-of-state competitions and events.

The school had an active and successful robotics team prior to the retirement of advisor Daniel Lemieux in 2020. Blue Crew FRC team 6153 from Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington, invited students and mentors from SMHS to join their team last year.

FIRST is an abbreviation of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FRC is an international high school robotics program. It combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology, according to the FRC website.

“We are very much a team-led team,” Rob Taylor, a teacher at SMHS and one of the robotics mentors told the board when introducing head mentor Richard Wilde from Mt. Blue.

Wilde has been head mentor for the Blue Crew team since its inception in 2016. That year, the team won the All-Star Rookie Award for the best new team at the FIRST New England District meet in Providence, R.I. The team was also chosen to be part of the meet’s winning alliance.

“I always knew that we had a pretty good team, I knew the Spruce Mountain team,” Wilde said. “What I was really unprepared for was what happened when you combined the two teams. What they were able to accomplish last year was more than either one of our previous teams had done.


“I really love having Spruce on board and if it means that I have to go to another school board meeting, so be it. It’s just something phenomenal happened for these kids. We would not have been able to accomplish what we did last year without them joining us.”

Team captain Emily Hammond from Mt. Blue noted this is her second year as captain and the second time she has appeared before the RSU 73 board of directors. In March 2022 she, Wilde and SMHS students were among those who asked and received permission to attend out-of-state competitions after the team won the Chairman’s Award at the New England Pine Tree District Event in Waterville.

“Last year we accepted Spruce students and it was one of the best decisions we ever made for our team,” she said. “That year although we only had a few Spruce Mountain members, they made such a huge impact for our team.”

Ava Coates, a student representative on the RSU 73 board of directors, helped write the Chairman’s Report that won the Chairman’s Award for the team, Hammond noted. “That got us to go and attend the New Englands where we were also able to qualify for the world competition which is something that our team has not done since 2016,” she said. “We are aiming to make it that far once again, we have very high hopes.”

The size of the team has doubled from about 16 last year to more than 30 this year, Hammond said. “We are absolutely thrilled to have you all being able to see what we are accomplishing here and we are so excited to kick off this season,” she added.

The team has been working on the Chairman’s Report which shows the team’s impact on the community, Megan Craig, from SMHS, said. “Some examples we included in the Chairman’s Report is how we are helping two schools start teams for next year,” she noted. “We also hosted the first normal FIRST LEGO League State Championship at our high school.”


Because FLL was so popular, space became an issue at the state event and regional events were held beginning in 2015 to determine which teams could compete there. Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team, the former FRC team hosted this area’s regional FLL competition from 2015 to 2019. The events were not held in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

Those and many other things could help win the Chairman’s Award, Craig added.

Spruce Mountain High School student Lily Bailey is the team’s entrepreneurship captain. “I handle all of the finances,” she said. “I know that money is not exactly the best thing to talk about, but it’s important so I am going to do it anyway. We have about $5,000 in our budget currently for costs for things like competitions, robot parts, stuff like that.

“I am working on our Entrepreneur’s Report, which I am basically revising from last year. It’s complete with a SWOT analysis, which is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We have included as an opportunity our merging with Spruce because as Emily said, that has doubled our team. We started as of last year with five members, then we went to 16 members and now we are at 31. That is absolutely amazing.”

One weakness of the team is training team members as not all are veterans, and training members can be hard, Bailey said. “We are trying to get around that this year,” she added.

SMHS student and member Mason Labonte shared the out-of-state competitions the team wants to attend:


March 3-5, New England District SE Mass Event in Bridgewater, Massachusetts

March 25-26, NE District UNH Event in Durham, New Hampshire

April 5-8, New England FIRST District Championship in West Springfield, Massachusetts

April 19-22, FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas

The latter two are by invitation only, Labonte said. The team is hoping to compete successfully at other events and earn that right, he noted.

“We have also been working on a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] room downstairs at the middle school, Daniel Wilson, RSU 73 student representative to the board and robotics member, said. “We were able to get $30,000 of equipment from the State of Maine. We have a lot of LEGO League kits, we have been assisting middle schoolers and maybe even younger with learning how to use them and coding and we’ve also set up merge cubes down there.”


Wilson has also been working on setting up some 3-D printers in the room to teach students how to use those.

STEM carts were provided to the four Spruce Mountain schools, Taylor said. “The state sent us 46 LEGO League kits,” he noted. “They are $500 each, that’s $23,000 worth of LEGOs. We didn’t really have a place for this, so Mr. [Kristofer] Targett [SMMS Principal] found a space for us downstairs underneath the gym. We are making it into a STEM room. We have got teachers and faculty working on it but also the robotics kids are helping us to make that place a reality.”

In his report, Chris Hollingsworth, the curriculum coordinator/IT director said the room would be named Spruce Mountain Imagineering Program. It will be more than STEM, a resource for anyone to use, he added.

Director Joel Pike, who is also a team mentor, made the motion to approve out-of-state travel and asked that an event on Feb. 18 also be included. The team is on a wait list, include that just in case, he said. The robotics team is a great group of kids, he added.

After this year’s robot is finished, it will be brought for directors to see, Wilde said. The next version of R2Blue2, the team’s mascot is also being developed. “I’ll bring him over as well so you can see him,” he added.

Comments are not available on this story.