hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

February 27, 2014

A boost from NASA

Students get cash, inspiration for robotics competition

A lot of things have been named after Haverhill’s famous poet John Greenleaf Whittier, including a city and glacier in Alaska.

Closer to home, there’s a health center, a road, a middle school and, of course, Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Now, students on Whittier Regional’s new Robotics Team have linked the noted poet and abolitionist to a high-tech marvel they will use in upcoming robotics competitions in an effort to “abolish” their opponents.

To honor their school’s poet namesake who also fought to abolish slavery, team members named their robot “The Metallic Poet.”

With NASA as a sponsor and the deadline for the students’ first big competition looming, the Robotics Team is highly motivated. Fifteen to 20 students have been meeting every day after school and on Saturdays to design and build a robot they hope will scoop up a large rubbery ball and propel it into a goal.

“We tried the launch and it worked pretty well for the first time,” said Alex Matos, a Whittier sophomore from Groveland. “A lot of people think we should be further along or done by now, but it has taken time.”

Nick Nicolosi, a junior from Haverhill said, “We might have played with the catapult prototypes for too long, but we have it now.”

The school’s FIRST Robotics Team (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) will compete against 50 other teams at Nashua South High School Feb. 28 to March 1.

The Whittier students won a $6,000 grant from NASA and received $1,000 each from BAE Systems in Nashua and Raytheon Company in support of their efforts.

“Companies sponsor us because they recognize the importance of introducing students to engineering,” said Robert Beaton, an electronics/robotics teacher at Whittier.

Beaton said the money was used to buy the software, electronics and a kit of parts to build the robot.

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