Littleton’s FIRST Robotics Team Mechanical Advantage 6328 recently won two awards at the Granite State District Competition.
Littleton didn’t have a robotics team eight months ago. Now, the town has a team of award-winners.
Members of Littleton’s FIRST Robotics Team, named Mechanical Advantage 6328, recently competed in the Granite State District Competition in New Hampshire, finishing fifth of 39 teams and bringing home two awards – Highest Rookie Seed and Rookie All Star.
Teams from around the region met in the arena with robots they built themselves to accomplish a series of timed tasks, which included launching projectiles and driving around obstacles.
Littleton resident David Provost, president of Mechanical Advantage 6328, founded the team last summer, initially meeting with students weekly to build a practice robot.
“There are kids who are really gravitating to what we’re doing and they’re being exposed to some really sophisticated stuff, including software development,” said Provost.
Now Littleton’s team has grown to about 20 active members with 10 adult mentors – all working together to design, build, and code a competitive robot.
Provost first got the idea to start a robotics team in Littleton after volunteering at a Boston robotics event in 2009.
“The town itself has laid the groundwork for greater STEM engagement, more STEM offerings,” Provost said. “Between that and this intrinsic appetite the town seems to have for this stuff… things have just come together to bring us to the point where we are today.”
The Littleton robotics team spent the summer and fall seasons raising approximately $30,000 to buy the equipment, tools and parts needed to build its robot.
Mechanical Advantage team members meet regularly to hone their design and programming skills, conduct community outreach campaigns, and meet with other area FIRST teams and mentors.
The team had less than seven weeks to strategize, design, build, and test a robot to be ready for competition in addition to writing proposals and award submissions and documenting the entire process, according to Provost.
David Provost’s son Brian Provost is a junior at Littleton High School and the team’s robot driver during competitions.
Zac Temple is one of the team’s adult mentors. Temple was a part of his FIRST at Nashoba Regional High School and wanted to be involved with a rookie team when he connected with the Littleton team.
“It is a far more realistic view at engineering than I think a lot of kids have in their head,” Temple said.
Elliot Bonner, a freshman at the Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, is the team’s coder as well as the robot’s operator, controlling its functions and actions aside from driving.
Littleton High School sophomore Sreenidhi Chalimadugu had no prior experience with robotics before she joined the team.
“I was just really fascinated since the beginning with the whole design process and actually getting to build something on your own with a team,” Chalimadugu said.
The team’s students and mentors form a unique partnership that helps advance engineering knowledge for all involved, according to Temple.
“FIRST is not a program where you take a bunch of kids and show them how to make a robot and that’s that,” Temple said. “It’s a partnership.”
Experience with robotics seems to matter more and more when it comes to the college acceptance process, added David Provost.
“I’m excited about the addition of a robotics club within our district,” Littleton Superintendent Kelly Clenchy said. “This offering allows students to develop skills through project based inquiry. Robotics also provides our students with an opportunity to develop skill sets in an industry that is developing at a local, national, and international level.”
With a host of tech companies around Littleton’s location at the intersection of Interstate 495 and Route 2, Littleton’s robotics team could be used to grow the town’s role in STEM, according to David Provost.
“I very much want to take advantage of our physical location to expand Littleton’s role in STEM, in robotics,” said David Provost. “We have a kernel here, but it’s a kernel we can build on.”
Mechanical Advantage 6328’s next competitive event will be the Southern New Hampshire District Competition at Bedford High School in Bedford, NH the weekend of March 24-26.