Maine team returns from robotics competition in China

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | | Updated: 2017-06-13 06:03

A team from a high school in Maine has just returned from a robotics competition in China, and had an opportunity to experience the history and culture of a civilization that dates back thousands of years.

"You could see by looking at all of the buildings how much history China has," said Michael Viens, 17, a senior at Messalonskee High School in an interview. "(China) is a really big place with a lot of people in just a single city."

"My first thoughts were what a beautiful country China is," added Lisa Klein, coach of the robotics team from Oakland, Maine, which is near Augusta, the state capital.

It was the first visit to China for both, who along with other team members, took part in a robotics competition in Qingdao in Shandong province, working with a Chinese team from May 25 until June 4.

The competition was under the auspices of FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, a nonprofit organization that sponsors robotics competitions.

Klein, who is also an educational technician at the school, said an American contact was impressed with the Messalonskee team and got them an invitation to Qingdao.

The FIRST robotics competition begins in January when teams get a game assignment with specific rules. "You are given six weeks to build a robot that complies with all the rules," she said.

Klein said the competition in Qingdoa was small, with about 15 teams. "Usually there are 50 or more teams involved," she added. Klein said the Chinese team that the Messalonskee members helped lost in the semifinals in Qingdao.

In addition to Kelin, Viens and freshman T.J. Petrill were the students who made the trip, along with alumni/mentors Gretchen Rice and Justin Shuman.

"I have been on the high school team for four years and have been involved with robotics since the fourth grade," Viens said. In the fourth grade the competition involved using Lego pieces. "I enjoy the science and technology behind robotics but it is also amazing to see the teams come up with different ideas to accomplish the same task," he added.

After graduation, Viens said that he will pursue culinary training but he doesn't intend to abandon robotics. "I have a real passion for it and may take a side major in it after I finish my culinary studies," he said.


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