FIRST Robotics Competition Knight of Katahdin team 9055 from Wilton won the Rookie Inspiration Award at an event held March 3-5 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Pictured from left top and middle row are Charlie Roberts, Monica Allen, Micah Hall, Joseph O’Brien, Ryan Roberts [safety glasses on], Tod Bennett and Adam Zimmerschied. Bottom row from left are James Waller, Landon Rackliffe, Chris Davidson, Ben Hatch and Brett Allen. Not pictured are student Phoebe Wills and mentors Liz Montoya and Matt Trundy. Submitted photo

REGION — Two local FIRST Robotics Competition [FRC] teams won awards when they competed March 3-5 at the New England District SE Mass Event in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Knights of Katahdin team 9055 from Wilton won the Rookie Inspiration award. Blue Crew 6153 from Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, which also includes members and mentors from Spruce Mountain High School in Jay won the Team Spirit award and was selected Safety Allstar Team.

New for FRC events this year, the playoffs are a double elimination format. Alliances which win a match stay in the upper bracket. Alliance which lose a match move to the lower bracket. Two losses in the rounds before finals eliminates the alliance. The final match is the best two out of three.

Five Maine teams were among the 30 teams competing at the event and all five were chosen to take part on one of the eight alliances which made up the playoff rounds. Teams from Oakland and Waterville were eliminated in the first round. Blue Crew 6153, a team made up of students from Spruce Mountain and Mt. Blue high schools won their first two matches but were then defeated by Knights of Katahdin 9055, a Wilton-based team.

The alliance with the Knights team on it then competed on the alliance with Delta Prime Robotics 4-H team 4473 from Richmond in the finals round. It took four matches before the winning alliance was named. The first match resulted in a tie, the second saw the Knights defeated by Delta, results in the third were swapped with the Knights victorious but Delta prevailed in the fourth to take the win.

The Knights made it all the way through undefeated until the finals, team mentor Joseph O’Brien said March 7. Going into the final best two out of three, one of the alliance robots failed halfway through resulting in a tie, he noted. The next match was close, but one robot still wasn’t fully functioning and the team lost by a narrow margin, he stated. In the following match all robots worked, dominated the other team and their alliance won by a lot, but one of the other robots again failed in the last round and the alliance lost, he added.

“It is the only four match finals I have seen in five years,” mentor Adam Zimmerschied said.


Knights of Katahdin operates out of Maine STREAM Place, which was founded by Joseph and Leah O’Brien. The state of the art facility features a Haas machine that can be computer programmed to cut pieces needed for building robots among other things. Leah mentors the Waterville team and the husband/wife duo hope to offer the facility and their expertise to other Maine teams as well. Joseph drove the Oakland team’s trailer to the recent competition.

The Haas machine is the newest generation, used in computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing, Zimmerschied said. In the industrial world the whole process isn’t seen, he noted.

Maine STREAM has several computers, 3D printers and a laser cutter, Joseph said.

The O’Briens moved to Maine after retiring from Boeing. Joseph said he mentored a team from the state of Washington that made it to the FRC World Competition three times. Over 420 teams compete on six different fields there and he wanted to bring that experience to Maine, he noted.

The Knights team has eight members, seven of whom attended the competition, Joseph said. He noted his team has access to more equipment than other Maine teams have. “All of the kids are really awesome, are already competing at top level,” he stated. “I love these kids.”

The Wilton Lions Club built all needed practice field elements for the team, Joseph said. They were to be taken to Smart Fun Learning Adventures in Farmington, whose FIRST LEGO League [FLL] team won the state competition and will be representing Maine at the national competition next month in Houston, Texas.


Smart Fun student Brett Allen is also a member of Knights of Katahdin and serves as the team’s software leader. His mother, Monica Allen is Smart Fun’s FLL coordinator and is a mentor for the Knights.

“There is a lot of community support for Knights of Katahdin and other teams in the area,” Monica said. One of Maine STREAM’s visions is to support the cause of FRC and technical education in the state, she noted. “They have an incredibly amazing shop,” she added.

Zimmerschied has spent 20 years in manufacturing, mentor Tod  Bennett has 47 years experience in software development.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to have this kind of experience for mentorship,” Monica said.

Bennett mentors for the success of the kids, helping them get their feet in the right place.

Knights member Phoebe Wills of Chesterville was not able to attend the competition, watched it from home. “I was very impressed with hoe they played defense,” she said. “I wish I was there.”


The Knights are a young team with two sophomores and the rest freshman aged or younger.

Wills’ small hands helped with wiring tasks on the robot. Each wire was individually labelled to make identification easier should issues arise.

The Knights earned the respect of a lot of other kids, they weren’t perfect but did what they could, Bennett said. “Knowing you can get respect without being perfect is an important lesson,” he added.

Brett said the size of the robots goes up significantly in FRC compared with FLL but most things are pretty similar. FLL has a project aspect to it not included in FRC, he noted. FLL uses premade parts while in FRC teams make their own parts which is a big step up, he added.

“Personally, one of the coolest things to see was the process all coming together, everybody doing their part,” Brett said. “The most challenging was the time crunch. There wasn’t time enough to get everything done.”

FRC makes people actually use their brains, Wills noted.


“I had a blast at our first competition last weekend, team member Ryan Roberts emailed. “I shared various jobs with my teammates. … And I enjoyed watching our robot compete. It was a huge privilege to be invited on an alliance with two very skilled teams for the finals and come in [second]!”

Roberts wrote he has learned how to use many tools and machines including caliper, deburring tool, bandsaws, drill press, laser cutter, powder coating tools. He noted his main job was learning to operate the Haas VF4 CNC machine, a high precision machine used to cut metal and make parts to build the robot.

“I have enjoyed being a part of the team and having such a great opportunity to learn so much and I hope I can continue to learn and improve our robot and do it again next year,” Roberts added.

Team member Ben Hatch noted in an email what he most enjoyed about being on the team was having very good friends on the team. What he found most challenging was actually trying to manage lots of stuff and try to lead the team the best he could. He wrote he learned that one person cannot do everything.

“I am the design lead, main driver, and also student team captain,” Hatch noted. “Driving has been probably the most stressful thing about the competition, knowing people are relying on me and I am the one representing the team.” My operator driver controls the fine controls on the arm, but the arm is not fully functional yet, so the driving completely falls on me for now, he added.

Blue Crew mentor Rob Taylor shared information on how that team did in a recent email. The robot finished in eighth place after qualifying and was selected in the first round by the #5 alliance captain, he noted. “All of our scouting data told us that was the team we wanted to be with given our position in the draft, so we were really happy they drafted us,” he noted. “Our #5 alliance had a great game plan and team strategy. The tournament was double elimination format this year and we upset the #4 alliance in the first round and then knocked off the #1 alliance in round two!


“We lost a close one to the #2 alliance in the winners bracket final and then lost another close one in the losers bracket final to #3 and were eliminated. In terms of double elimination, our alliance would be considered 3rd place overall. It was pretty exciting to watch!”

Blue Crew amassed 46 qualifying points towards New Englands, the 6th highest total at the event, Taylor noted.  “There are 185 total teams in New England and about 80 will qualify and attend the NE Championships,” he wrote. “The threshold for getting in varies, but is typically around 70 qualifying points. We are well on our way to NE and Worlds.  We also have a list of improvements we can make between now and our event in [New Hampshire] end of March. In a nutshell, we had a great weekend!”

“It was really awesome to compete alongside so many incredible teams,” team captain Emily Hammond wrote in an email. “We had many victories, winning against the fourth-seed alliance in round 1 and the 1st-seed alliance in round 2. We ended playoffs in third place. We were so grateful to work alongside such amazing teams. Teams who were student-led, just like ours. Unfortunately, finding teams that allow the students to build, make mistakes, and learn is hard. When we find them, we work to lift them up and support them so they are able to maintain their values.”

The Spirit Award celebrates extraordinary enthusiasm and spirit through exceptional partnership and teamwork furthering the objectives of FIRST, Hammond noted. “We are very proud to have received this award,” she wrote. “Knowing our team was having so much fun and passion throughout the event that we were recognized by the judges is all I can ask for.

“Every event is a learning experience for everyone involved. SE Mass was the first time we could see how our robot is able to navigate and perform on an actual field. We identified issues and weaknesses that our robot has and discussed how to make improvements. The main goal throughout the season is constant improvement. We showed that throughout our qualification matches as the drive team got used to maneuvering the field and picking up game pieces. We also were able to see weaknesses in our strategies and scouting data. We are tackling those issues to become a better and stronger team in our next event.”

“At the competition, we realized that the name change of Chairman’s to Impact Award also brought about changes to the award,” team member Lily Bailey wrote in an email. “Instead of a team focus, it’s now focused on how the team affects its community. We plan to refocus our presentation before our next competition.”


Blue Crew received lots of positive feedback on its extensive safety inventory, Bailey noted. “Safety has always been a focus of our team and our safety co-captains work really hard to enforce that, the judges have always seen this as something that makes us stand out,” she wrote.

Bailey noted it was really amazing to have the FIRST community back to pre-pandemic levels, having spectators at events again was exciting.

“Our team has learned the importance of teamwork in everything we do,” Bailey wrote. “This year, our team realized the importance of accessibility and the challenges of advocating for it at events. Our team continues to grow and flourish as a newly combined program.”

Blue Crew member Ben Wilson wrote in an email the robot performed perfectly. “We made it onto the charging station during auto[nomous] 100% of the attempts, and our robot performed perfectly every other action we attempted to do. Props to all of our programmers!”

Wilson noted before the next event the team is working on programming the robot to do everything more quickly, as well as precisely and looking to score as many points as possible during autonomous.

The impact group realized it was talking to the judges like it was the chairman’s award, Wilson noted. “We need to redefine our essay by explaining not what we do to make a difference but instead detailing the impact we make in others lives.”

“I thought the event was great! What I really liked was how we they really cared about all of the teams being able to see their robot perform and obviously the award we got along with how well our robot did. I learned that at some point it isn’t always what you do that decides what you win, but how you explain it. One of the things that I’ve heard in my life is that you can be incredibly smart, but nobody will know if you can’t explain yourself.”

Wilson noted he wants readers to know that the Blue Crew is here to make a difference. “We want to do our best to support our many communities as well as leave an impact upon those who we serve or collaborate with,” he added


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