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Tech Games

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February 7, 2012

Robots took over the Adrian Tinsley Center at Bridgewater State University on Saturday, when BSU hosted the FIRST Tech Challenge regional qualifier. The challenge pitted 24 high school teams in a robotics competition for a shot at the Massachusetts championship tournament.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), is a non-profit organization that encourages young students to pursue STEM education programs (science, engineering, technology and math) by offering mentorships, scholarships and other initiatives.

Competing in the FTC were teams of up to 10 high school students from schools across the commonwealth and New England who, paired with mentors, built and programmed robots to perform prescribed tasks against competitors.

BSU's Dr. Art Goldstein, dean of College of Science and Mathematics, welcomed an audience of more than 700 people to the event, offering words of praise to the competitors.

"I'm very pleased to see so many of you participating in this competition because it indicates your interest in science and mathematics and I encourage you to maintain that interest because these fields offer so many rewards," said Dean Goldstein. "As a geologist myself, I've had the chance to travel around the world and meet so many fascinating people. At the same time, science and math are excellent career options where demand for people with talent is constantly growing."

After a 10-hour competition, a team from North Andover High School took first place. The students were presented a trophy by David Price, dean of aviation science at BSU who helped coordinate the competition.

Mr. Price said the robotics event represented the best application of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education for high school students, as it creates an educational and competitive environment that drives students to succeed.

"It takes every best practices of STEM and puts it into a competition model," said Dean Price. "That head-to-head competition really raises the bar for the students. It's more than good grades or any awards. These young people are playing for pride."

The North Andover team will go on to compete in the state tournament, which be held in March. If they win, they will earn a spot competing against teams from around the world in the international robotics competition, held this year in St. Louis, Mo.

While Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School did not officially have a team in the competition, as it competes locally and regionally with larger robots, the school did send student representatives of its robotic team to show support.

"We have a team of approximately 50 students," said Nicole Ledoux, a senior at BRRHS and a tri-captain of the school's robotics club. "We'll be competing in tournaments starting in March when we go to Baltimore, Maryland, for the Chesapeake Regional Competition. If we win there, we'll continue on and hopefully reach the nationals this year. The interest among high school students for robotics is growing all the time, and today's turnout is evidence of that."

Greetings were also delivered by Fred Clark, BSU's executive vice president and vice president for external affairs. "Although only one team will win today, everyone who participated in this event was already a winner even before you got here," said Mr. Clark. "You've learned how to work together, how to be engineers, how to solve problems and how to get machines to do what you want them to. I commend and applaud all of you and I especially want to acknowledge your family members and teachers who are supporting you as you explore how to improve all of our lives."

Among the volunteers who helped with Saturday's tournament were a large group of BSU students and alumni, including James Lynch, Class of 1987, who is an administrator at Massasoit Community College and whose son was a member of the B-R robotics team. "This is really a terrific way to get students involved with technology in the most positive ways," said Mr. Lynch. (David K. Wilson, 71, Office of University Advancement)

Top photo caption: Students from Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School include (from left) Gloria Moran, a BSU graduate and volunteer from the Department of Elementary Education; Courtney Arnagost of Raynham, a BRRHS sophomore and member of the school's robotics team; Len Sprague of Bridgewater, a BSU freshman, a BRRHS graduate and former member of the school's robotics team; and James Lynch and Nicole Ledoux.

See below story for caption
Participants of the FIRST Tech Challenge

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