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Northboro students win FIRST contest.

Byline: Patricia J. James

UPTON - Brian Nardone and Billy Jones, both seventh-grade students at Robert E. Melican Middle School in Northboro, have something to brag about when they come to school this morning.

The two, along with several teammates who are also Melican Middle School students, beat out dozens of teams from Massachusetts and New York in the eighth annual FIRST Lego League Competition on Saturday at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Roughly 60 teams with members ages 9 to 14 competed for hours in the 2007 "Power Puzzle" Challenge, which had a theme this year of renewable energy. The students had six weeks to prepare and program miniature Lego robots to complete missions that included solar panels on houses, wind turbines, planting trees, hydro-dams, and other environmentally friendly uses, according to Stephen C. Grabowski, Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School research and information services officer. Hundreds of students participated to gain points for the various missions.

Daniel A. Strickland, who started the Northboro robotics program about five years ago with his wife, Bonnie Jean Strickland, said the town was represented by four teams at last weekend's competition - two teams from the middle school and two teams composed of elementary school students.

"It teaches them a lot," he said before one of the competition rounds Saturday. "They're trying to solve a problem."

Thirteen-year-olds Ram Nambi, an eighth-grader at Oak Middle School in Shrewsbury, and Jonathan R. Pouliot, a seventh-grader at the same school, both said this was the first year they participated in the competition.

"My parents told me about it," Ram said between rounds Saturday. "It's really fun."

Asked what his favorite part of the six-week process was, Jonathan said, "I like the competition."

Horace Mann Middle School in Franklin was also represented at the event. Sixth-grade students Ben A. Bertram, 11, Deborah Dillenburg, 12, and twins Colin C. and Devin D. Brady, both 11, were hopeful after winning one of their rounds Saturday afternoon.

"We've gone this far," Ben said during a break.

"So far, so good," Colin agreed.

FIRST was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, a physicist and entrepreneur known for the Segway Human Transporter, according to Mr. Grabowski, to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Last year, FIRST Robotics featured more than 32,500 students on more than 1,300 teams in 37 different regional competitions, according to Mr. Grabowski.

"It's a fun thing and they learn a lot," he said. "For students nowadays, everything's technology."
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 19, 2007
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