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July 18, 2013

Whittier High graduate is tops at national SkillsUSA competition

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Competing at this year’s national conference were Nathan Bernard, Electronics Technology; Steven Quimby, Masonry; Roy Rivas, Photography; Brittany Johnson, Culinary Arts; and Robert Sherbs, Alexandra Perez, Elissa Bornstein and Callie Merrill, who all competed in the Health Knowledge Bowl.

Earlier this year, Bernard was programming captain for Haverhill Robotics, a team of students who participated in Haverhill High’s Access21 program. Haverhill’s team, which formed an alliance with a team from Virginia and another from Arizona, programmed a robot that floated in zero gravity aboard the International Space Station. The event, called Zero Robotics, was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their computer code was uploaded to the space station and astronauts then loaded it into a robot called SPHERES. The robot had to follow programmed commands to achieve a score. Bernard said that in his team’s first attempt, their robot ran out of fuel, severely impacting their score. In their second attempt they lost to another team. But when the competition was run online with a simulator, where robots do not run out of fuel and are not subject to interference, Haverhill’s alliance won the event.

Karen E. Ward, executive director for SkillsUSA Massachusetts, said that as a state, Massachusetts captured 56 national medals; 19 gold, nine silver and 28 bronze, along with 17 Presidential Volunteer Service Awards, while 96 students earned SkillPoint Certificates (Certification of Industry Proficiency). Ward said the 56 medals represented the second highest medal total (high school and college level combined) in the nation, behind only Florida.

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