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  • 1. Academy Robotics Team Supported By Technical Experts Posted 02/01/2008 03:37PM Academy Robotics Team Supported By Technical Experts 5,000 Teams – VT Team Takes 17th in Nation A team of experts from many of Vermont’s leading technology firms are rallying behind a team of St. Johnsbury Academy students entered in the FIRST Competition, a nationwide robotics competition. Officials at the FIRST Competition encourage students to seek the assistance of professionals to increase their exposure to engineering and it is a key component to the Competition. In the fall of 2007, Academy STeM students participated in the UVM TASC Challenge that focused on engineering and the use of wind power. Mr. Mark Renkert, CEO of Fairhaven & Crowne LLC, Vermont’s largest executive search firm (and TASC supporter) met with the Academy team and became interested in the FIRST Competition. Renkert and other technical professionals visited the Academy on January 28 to review the progress being made by the Academy FIRST team. He was inspired by his visit and immediately went to work to coordinate other professionals to assist in the project. The lead engineer for the professional consultants is Maurice Kinney from IBM, which has allowed him to use “company time” to help the Academy team. In addition to Renkert and Kinney, volunteer experts include Karen Wells, CEO of Soundfootings LLC;
  • 2. Steve Roberge, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Koffee Kup Bakery; Ashley Adams, CEO and Bradley Blow, Manufacturing Manager at PG Adams Co.; Daniel Gleason, President and Chris Duchaine, Project Engineer at Hazelett Strip Casting; John Plante, Senior Process Engineer at Shelburne Plastics; Michael Franco, President of the Franco Machine Co., Don Wells, CEO of DEW Corp; Renee Bellack, Senior Systems Manager for General Dynamics’ Countermeasures Division; and Hien Nguyen, Senior Circuit Engineer at Qimoda USA. “These student engineers do precisely what engineers in corporations do, and they use the same methodology and speed in delivery to final test,” Karen Wells said. After witnessing the Academy team at the TASC Challenge, and reviewing the complexity and functionality of the robot being designed, Renkert said the team includes “some of the brightest minds I’ve ever met.” Roberge, who also took part in the January 28 visit, added, “What the student engineers have achieved in this project would blow the mind of any engineer I know. I’ve never seen such determination, spark, and creative problem solving.” Dr. Parshall agrees. “This is an extraordinary group,” she said. “In my 15 years of experience, I have met few people like these.” The Academy team’s efforts have attracted several other adult mentors and supporters, too, including Wilson Thomas of Danville, Stan Fickes of Peacham, Bryan Galante of St. Johnsbury, Norwich University students and faculty members, and several Academy teachers and staff. Norwich University also awarded the team a $2,000 grant. Equally important, the project has already demonstrated value far beyond the technical knowledge and skills required. “Interestingly, we have students working together on this project whose countries have been or are adversaries,” Dr. Parshall said, noting the team includes students from “Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the U.S.--all working together as a team.” Team members include nine students involved in assembly, motors, electronics, sensors, and programming; six responsible for business-related tasks such as advertising, fundraising, public relations, and accounting; and “general technicians and handymen,” Dr. Parshall added. “We win just by completing the robot,” she stressed. “I am grateful for the outpouring of support from Vermont as this team of Vermonters and multi-national students work 18-hour days to complete the project.” Nine members of the 20-student team will travel to Burlington Feb. 7 and 8 to meet with 13 professional engineers who have volunteered their expertise as consultants for the Academy’s team, then “put the finishing touches on our robot,” said Dr. Elaine Parshall, Director of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STeM) Program and the Allen D. Christensen Chair in Engineering. The FIRST Competition regional event will take place in Hartford, Connecticut March 13-15. Additional information about the Academy team is available by contacting Dr. Parshall at eparshall@stjacademy.org or visiting the Academy’s website at www.stjohnsburyacademy.org. Close