Student Noah Civiello adjusts a robot Feb. 11 at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. Members and mentors of Blue Crew FIRST Robotics Competition team 6153 meet several times each week to work on the robot and other aspects of the program. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Blue Crew FIRST Robotics Competition team 6153 is busy gearing up for the competition season and adapting to changes in the program.

FIRST Robotics Competition 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.

Blue Crew was originally created by Foster Career and Technical Education Center on the Mt. Blue Campus.

Last year, instructor Richard Wilde invited students and mentors from Spruce Mountain High School in Jay to join the team.

Earlier this month, Spruce Mountain students were given permission to travel to out-of-state competitions by Regional School Unit 73 directors. At that meeting, Wilde said he was really unprepared for was what happened when the two teams combined.

“What they were able to accomplish last year was more than either one of our previous teams had done,” he stated.


In years past, FIRST Robotics Competition revealed what the theme and game for the year would be in January. Teams had several weeks to build their robot and can now work on it robot right up to a competition, Rob Taylor, a mentor from Spruce Mountain said Feb. 11.

The team has been meeting in Wilde’s room every Saturday to work on the robot and prepare the reports used for award consideration.

The theme this year is Charged Up, with the name of the game stations related to power, substations and the grid, Emily Hammond, team captain from Mt. Blue High School, said. “Yellow cones and inflatable purple cones have to be transported from the substation to the grid. At the very end of the match, the last 30 seconds there is this tilting ramp in the middle of the field and you have to drive up onto the ramp and you have to level it to get points.”

The robot doesn’t have a name yet, Hammond said. “It normally comes to us at some point throughout the season,” she noted. “Last year we were using different motors. We had one of the janitors come down, he was watching us test the drive train and the robot was turning super aggressively and he said, ‘Wow! You should call it Whiplash.’ We were like, ‘that’s an incredible name.'”

Again this year, the team is focusing on programming the robot to be able to complete all aspects of the game, Hammond said. “The charging station at the end of the game earns the most points,” she said. “During the autonomous stage at the beginning if you get the robot on you get 12 points. At the end more points are available, with the number depending on if the robot is parked on it or level.”

Hammond said one challenge this year is that while it looks like there is plenty of room to operate on the field it is really crowded with not a lot of space to move. Measurements along the floor and moving up the door frame help determine the spacing needed for different parts of the game, she noted.


Emily Hammond, captain of Blue Crew FIRST Robotics Competition team 6153, shows marks on a door frame at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington that help determine required heights for various aspects of this year’s competition. Tape on the floor marks distances involved with the game. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

“The robot will be holding cubes and cones in the air, that’s a lot of weight so we are working on different elevator ideas to get that extension in a stable way,” she stated. “Everything in the game happens high up in the air, so there is an issue with the center of gravity. If it is too high, your robot will fall over or other robots can knock you over. We have to think of so many different things all at once. To make sure our center of gravity is low so our robot doesn’t tip over and also be able to reach that far.”

While several students worked on the robot, others were working on reporting.

It will be shared with the judges for the Chairman’s Award, Bailey said.

“The Chairman’s Award has been changed to Impact Award,” Ava Coates, a SMHS student noted.

“FIRST now wants us to document, not as proof, just so they can see everything we did. Not just our essay but they like to count every little thing we did.”

“We provide letters, pictures of stuff we did to show it did help the community,” Coates stated. “We asked the mentors of FIRST LEGO League to write thank you letters to show we really helped the kids. We did letters for a lot of the bigger events, but for the smaller events we had pictures of the whole team.”


From left, Lily Bailey, Angie Davis, Ava Coates and Sam Pike work on the Impact Report [formerly the Chairman’s Report] for Blue Crew FRC team 6153 at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. Pike is a student at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay, the others are from Spruce Mountain High School, also in Jay. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls AdvertiserBlue Crew is also assisting other districts with their robotics programs. It has worked with people at TW Kelly Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield where efforts are underway to start a team next year.

“Myself and Gavin Hutton both run around taking pictures and videos,” Spruce Mountain High School student Angie Davis said. “We like to call ourselves the ‘soccer moms’ because we run around and interview people, take pictures. We document things, especially for the Chairman’s video, which is coming up. It is very important because we can’t really win without it.”

Blue Crew won the Chairman’s Award last year and attended the New England competition where it qualified for the world competition. The last time the team was invited to the latter was in 2016.

“We are aiming to make it that far once again, we have very high hopes,” Hammond had said previously.

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