hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


January 24, 2013

From robotics nut to MIT student?

Whittier High senior shoots for his dream school


“I remember fixing my Big Jake dump truck, too,” he said.

In Zero Robotics, high school students from across the country compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into Synchronized Position-Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. The game is motivated by a current problem of interest to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA and MIT. Of the 96 high schools that entered the competition, only 27 made it to the finals.

“Our programming captain, Nate, is like Bill Gates — amazing,” said Elaine Mistretta, a Haverhill High math teacher who advises the after-school Access21 Robotics program. “He’s a really great programmer who passed AP programming with a 5 (a perfect score) as a junior. It’s unheard of for juniors to get a 5 on that test.”

Bernard has a perfect 4.0 grade point average and is ranked first in his class of 273 students at Whittier, where he studies electronics and robotics. The son of Nancy Bernard of Bradford, he plans to major in computer science and electronic engineering in college.

Bernard’s electronics/robotics instructor Chris Speropolous, a teacher in the field for 26 years, said there’s no question he should get into MIT.

“If anyone is going to be a productive engineer, it’s him,” Speropolous said. “He has an incredible technological background. The country needs more kids like Nate.”

In case MIT doesn’t come through, Bernard has applied to four other technology schools. He was deferred as an early action MIT candidate last month, but remains quietly hopeful he will be one of the 200 of 4,000 deferred candidates to be accepted during general admissions in March.

“I’ve always loved MIT,” he said. “They have amazing academics and a great community. When the school was built, it was engineered especially to inspire communication and new ideas.”

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