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Mar 27, 2016 11:55 AM

Local team overcomes mishap for FIRST Robotics Competition

DURHAM - A sea of different colors filled the stadium at UNH's Whittemore Center Saturday as people cheered on forty teams from across New England for the annual FIRST Robotics Competition...but FIRST does not stand for the first year.

In fact, FIRST Robotics is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, inspiring students to get involved and get excited about engineering.

“First stands for: For inspiration and recognition of science and technology," said Regional Director of New England FIRST Robotics Scott Heaton.

"I would not be where I am today without robotics," said Matt Spettel, a senior at Merrimack High School.

"We've learned more different skills about engineering, about leadership, about marketing" said Bailey Joseph who is also a senior at Merrimack High.

Both boys began robotics as freshman and their team Chop Shop won the Chairman's award at an prior competition, the Granite State competition.

High-school students make up the teams, and the regional competition involved four different states. The kids were given six weeks to build a robot that is 10 feet wide and about 120 pounds and able to compete against others in an arena. The game changes every year and this year, the theme is "strong-hold."

“It’s a basically a siege game, six robots at a time on the field trying to breach the defenses of their competitors, weaken their castle and then ultimately take their castle," said Heaton.

Merrimack High's team came to the regional looking to play good matches, but almost didn't make it to the preliminary competition after a robot malfunction.

"We had a very strong axle holding our wheels on and all of a sudden BAM!" says Spettel.

"We thought we were done for the weekend" says Joseph.

But other teams stepped up to help out and UNH even opened their machine shop so Chop Shop could fix their robot, allowing them to make it through the qualification round onto the elimination round.

Now the team is hoping to garner enough points to move to advance to a district championship in Connecticut.

"There's many levels but our ultimate goal is to get to World Championship," said Spettel.

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