Dec. 22, 2003                        
  spacer Taking Legos to the Final Frontier

Published: Monday, Dec. 22, 2003

Samantha Jones, 9, of the Mars Pets team from Wilkins Elementary School in Amherst, lines up her team’s robot for a test run during the FIRST Lego League state tournament Dec. 13 at the north campus of Nashua High School. Photo by Dan Williamson
Samantha Jones, 9, of the Mars Pets team from Wilkins Elementary School in Amherst, lines up her team’s robot for a test run during the FIRST Lego League state tournament Dec. 13 at the north campus of Nashua High School.

NASHUA- Mindstorms Mayhem, a team of 10 students home-schooled from five communities in southern New Hampshire, was named 2003’s BAE Systems FIRST Lego League New Hampshire State Tournament champion Dec. 13 at the Nashua High School north campus.

Placing second were Flying Geeks from Nashua Christian Academy.

FIRST Lego League is one of the largest science competitions for students throughout the United States.

Mindstorms Mayhem was among 48 elementary and middle school teams from across New Hampshire and Massachusetts providing a robotic solution and research presentation to interplanetary mission challenges. “Mission Mars” invited students to explore the Martian landscape, solving problems unique to the Red Planet’s environment.

“The greatest challenge was to learn to work together as a team,” said Ben Streeter, Mayhem robot handler. “Once we did, we found we were good at different things - builders, programming, team spirit and research.”

Other Mindstorms Mayhem students are Melissa Gray, Nathan Gray, Brian Jennings, Ben Krupkin, Jacob Krupkin, David Schunemann, Nathan Streeter, Dan Umenhofer and Vickie Umenhofer. Coaches are Ken Streeter, Bill Gray and Christopher Jennings.

FIRST Lego League, in its fifth season, seeks to encourage an interest in science, math and technology among students ages 9-14 in a compressed, rapid-paced program.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology sanctions two science competitions: FIRST robotics competition for high-schoolers and FIRST Lego League for middle and elementary school students.

“This year’s challenge was particularly exciting because it made a current event - NASA’s Mars rover landing next month - relevant to each participant,” said Linda Lavoie, director for the New Hampshire tournament.

“Students gain a broader appreciation of current events because they’re encouraged to recognize the challenges inherent in an event as well as hone their skills to solve those challenges. At the same time, everyone - students and volunteers - is having fun.”

In October, more than 49,000 students from 13 nations accepted the challenge to solve Martian exploration and colonization concerns faced by astronauts and NASA engineers. For the past eight weeks, the 4,200 teams worked on robotic solutions using Lego Mindstorms robotics technology kits, strategizing, then designing, building and testing.

For the research element, the teams studied one of the challenge’s missions and developed research questions related to such issues as maneuvering and travel, Martian living conditions, space technology and alliances. They then prepared presentations to demonstrate how robotics technology can address their questions.

In the Mayhem presentation, they discussed the need for energy resources and the practical application of a geothermal power solution, explained Nathan Gray, Mayhem team member.

“Solar panels are too hard to keep free of the Martian dust, windmill blades would have to be too large to maintain and hamster power isn’t economical. So geothermal power becomes the obvious and practical resource.”

At the New Hampshire tournament, a robot’s performance was judged in a 2½-minute round to accomplish certain tasks on an 8-foot by 4-foot tabletop, maneuvering around obstacles and creating alliances with other teams for maximum performance. For Mission Mars, tasks included clearing dust from a solar panel, loading and launching a canister from a MAV launcher, connecting habitation modules, freeing a rover and moving ice cores to base.

In the past six months, WGBH-TV’s “Zoom” has documented the FIRST Lego program. “Zoom” entered a team in this tournament. The five-part series will air in May as part of the popular education show.

FIRST Lego League State Tournament RESULTS
Overall best performance based on five elements: robot design, robot performance score, research presentation, teamwork and FIRST Lego League values.

1st place: Mindstorms Mayhem, home school
Team members: Melissa Gray, Nathan Gray, Brian Jennings, Ben Krupkin, Jacob Krupkin, David Schunemann, Ben Streeter, Nathan Streeter, Dan Umenhofer, Vickie Umenhofer. Advisers: Ken Streeter, Bill Gray and Christopher Jennings.

2nd place: The Flying Geeks, Nashua Christian Academy
Team members: Dan Vaccaro, Cameron Fournier, C.T. Spaulding, Mike Hans, Rachel Bohanan, Brian Gray.
Adviser: Randy Bohanan.

Technical innovative Design
Most original approach to solving challenge.

1st place: Team 50937
Team members: Alice Arsenault, Julia Coffin, Caleb McCandless, Heather Parker, Will Scheffer. Adviser: Mark Kritlow.

2nd place: Twitching Martian Masters, Amherst Middle School
Team members: David Arsenault, William Carbery, Taylor George, Quinn Glover, Nicholas Murphy, Dennis Wilson. Advisers: Dennis Wilson, Joe George.

Technical Robust Design
Best mechanical design.

1st place: Flying Geeks

2nd place: M.A.R.S. “The Virus,” Amherst Middle School
Team members: Grant Davis, Jake Fiacco, Lizzy Fiacco, Kelsie Helberg, Sam Lowell, Dustin Newhouse. Advisers: Mike Fiacco, Vicki Fiacco.

Technical Programming
Program that best bridges the gap between robot hardware and team strategy.

1st place: Space Cowboys, Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School
Team members: Jeff Kelley, Brian Collette, Drew Garvey, Tom Indelicato, Vincent Cicchetti, Derek Huang, Matt Vegliante, Matt Fecteau. Advisers: Sue Kelley, Marray Collette.

2nd place: The Munchkins, community team from Bedford and Jaffrey
Team members: Spencer Frank, Peter Aiello, Stephanie Schaeberle, Alex Nolet, Eric Nolet, Roxanne Harmon. Advisers: Beatrice Schaeberle, Chris Nolet.

Research Presentation
Best reflects an understanding of the issues and scientific disciplines involved in the challenge theme.

1st place for quality research: Batteries Not Included, Hudson Memorial School
Team members: Shawn Gould, Laura Gould, Daniel Holm, Jay Dupont, Bradley Poegel, Meghan O’Keefe, Michael O’Keefe. Advisers: Susan Gould, Ron Holm.

2nd place: Martian Vipers, community team from Weare

1st place for innovative solution: Red Ice, Hudson Memorial School
Team members: Joe Geoffray, Jim Hebert, Garrett Huang, Chris Melanson, Geoffrey Paguette, Brian Stewart. Advisers: Kevin Rochford, Mike Hebert, Dana Paguette, Renee Paguette, Deb Warren.

2nd place: Engine Ears, Londonderry Middle School and home school
Team members: Ryan Landry, Daniel Farris, Brendan Brown, Andrew Lee, Andrew Law, Joseph Lavalliere, Peter Landry. Adviser: Randall Landry.

1st place for creative presentation: Tekno Devils, Fairgrounds Junior High School, Nashua
Team members: Brian Pelletier, Nicole Gaudette, Sama Kadakia, Sesha Kadakia, Andrew Hugh, Dhishant Asorpota, Glenn Sweeney. Advisers: Skye Sweeney, Shefali Kadakia.

2nd place: The Red Man Group, Hollis/Brookline Middle School, Hollis
Team members: Chris Clement, Jeff Hammond, Zack Metea, Matt Papineau, Marty Perkins, Ryan Schwers. Advisers: Scott Papineau, Mark Metea.

Team that best demonstrates partnership, respect and problem solving skills with other teams.

1st place: “Zoom” from WGBH-TV, Boston
Team members : Mike, Shing Ying, Cara, Maya, Francesco, Kortney, Kyle. Adviser: Kristen Kelso.

2nd place: The Pleiades, Dover
Team members: Emily Balch, Gwen Milliman, Hannah Coon, Molly Hearn, Stephanie Broido, Suzanne Hearn, Zoey Frocking.

Rookie Award
Rookie team that best shows promise.

Mars Pets, Wilkins Elementary School, Amherst
Team members: Taylor Bardsley, Shelby Belak, Julie Harris, Samantha Jones, and Madison Thompson. Advisers: Peggy Harris, David Bardsley.

Team Spirit Award
Team that most enthusiastically demonstrates a commitment to the challenge

Liquid Fire, Auburn Village School
Team members: Kara DiNatale, John Grossmith, Ben Hart, Tommy McCarthy, Dillan Murray, Dan Pelletier, Tyler Pepin, Shayne Swart. Advisers: Jill Greely, Becki McCarthy, Eric Murray.

Performance Award
Highest scoring team robot in the tournament elimination round.

1st place: Robosquad, Embed Inc., Groton/Dunstable, Mass.
Team members: John Cushion, Ari Lathrop. Adviser: O. Lathrop.

2nd place: Spoink, Pennichuck Junior High, Nashua.
Team members: John Close, Karrinda Deleija, Paul Duvall, Stephen Griffin, Chris Lamere, Daniel Miller, Ben Prichard, Brian Russo, Ryan Snyder, Alan Soto. Advisers: Paul Lamere, Laurie Conrad, Colette Valade.

3rd place: Mindstorms Mayhem.

4th place: Flying Geeks.

Judges Awards
Recognizing remarkable achievements.

Against All Odds award: The Dumples, Mastricola Middle School, Merrimack.
Team members: Erik Hamnquist, Gavin King, Michael Skarda, David Porbunderwala, Josh Moberger, Ken Aborn. Advisers: Fran Leach, Ross Martin.

Gracious Professionalism award: Robo Hobos, St. Catherine’s School, Manchester.
Team members: Matthew Dumont, Alli Sarazen, Stephanie Demetry, Michael Lazas, Greg Denis, Lydia Denis. Advisers: Liz Demetry, John Demetry, Paula Denis, Fran Denis.

Young Adult Coach/Mentor
High school or college student whose support and guidance best demonstrates FIRST Lego League values and objectives.

Kristen Kelso, “Zoom”

Adult Coach/Mentor
Individual whose support and guidance best demonstrates FIRST Lego League values and objectives.

Steve George, Merrimack

Outstanding Volunteer

Skye Sweeney, Nashua
for a variety of leadership roles and contributions to the local league effort. A long-time league volunteer, Sweeney wrote this year’s coaches handbook, planned and led two local tournaments and contributed to the New Hampshire state tournament Web site.



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