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On March 6th, Newton teens will be competing in Boston’s largest Robotics competition. The competition is the regional event of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics program designed for high school students. The name of the game is Lunacy, in honor of the forty year anniversary of the lunar launch in 1969. Though the object of the game is simple, get more of your balls in the opponents’ trailers, the rulebook is long and complicated. Within a six week time period, using a limited materials list and some creative engineering, the goal is to create a robot to compete for possible national recognition. The hope is to engage kids to have some fun while inspiring learning and achievement in teamwork, technology, engineering and more. This is a story about a new direction in collaborative learning and healthy competition.


The Ligerbots chose a name which combines Newton North Tigers and Newton South Lions. This collaboration of the north and south sides of this city is an admirable one. The idea of cross city collaboration was first proposed by Superintendent Young and seven Newton high school teachers have stepped up to the plate. Cross discipline learning is a concept that the Newton Public Schools’ curriculum coordinators has been percolating for some time now in an effort to keep pace with today’s evolving educational approaches and to respond to the cumulative effects of budget cuts over the past several years. The Robotics competition efficiently combines several disciplines: science, technology, mathematics, and engineering all rolled into one elegant model for gracious competition and collaboration.  It also incorporates the business side, with web development, marketing and fundraising.

The full team name is Team 2877 Nasa, PTC, BEC, Raytheon, Textron, Newton LigerBots. Newton teens, under the direction of teachers and alumni volunteers, called mentors have been working after school into the evenings and on weekends designing, programming and building. Sponsors include NASA, PTC (Parametric Technology Corporation), BEC (Boston Engineering Corporation), Raytheon, and Textron.

“FIRST redefines winning for these students because they are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Scoring the most points is a secondary goal. Winning means building partnerships that last.”*

I visited the team preparing the Robot for shipment on a Saturday afternoon. An earnest group of teens and adults were clustering around a curious man sized contraption. They were weighing in the robot in preparation for shipment. Coach Poulos announces, “Okay guys, we are overweight by about six or seven pounds!” Then he thinks a minute and adds, “That’s the Robot, not us.” Make no mistake; this is no ordinary pack of nerds! Cheering them on and for spirit the Newton North Break Dance team will perform during the competition in March. The Blue Man Group will open the competition. This is a new model for cool!

The world needs more scientists and engineers and these Newton teachers should be commended for giving of their free time to work with these kids (although from what I observed, they were having as much fun as the kids.) This experience is the type that students will remember in later years as life forming. Nathan Dushman, a Process Engineer by day, knows this to be true. You see, Nathan graduated from Newton South and was a student of Coach Lund. In his off time, Nathan has been helping with the programming. Not to mention the other scientists from the sponsor groups have also come in to consult.

Teacher from Newton North and South High School

Coach Sue Brooks, Visual Design Teacher at North

Coach Phil Golando, IT Department Teacher at North

Coach Chuck Hurwitz, Science Department Head at South

Coach Jordan Kraus, Biology teacher at South

Coach Debbie Lund, Science Teacher at North

Coach Greg Poulos, IT Department Head at South

Coach Tim Stephens, Science Teacher at South

Coach Lund says, “Ligerbot rocks!”

Come on March 6th and 7th and cheer them on!

Free and Open to the Public!

Unique, high-tech, sophisticated robots (& their student developers) will compete in a highly energized, rock concert atmosphere, surrounded by hundreds of volunteers, amazing people, and gracious corporate sponsors.

Don’t miss the largest robotics competition in Boston and the largest regional competition in FIRST history — In 2008, over 7000 attendees watched more than 1000 high school students competing. March 6th – 7th, 2009
Friday and Saturday – 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Agganis Arena at Boston University

925 Commonwealth Avenue

Boston, MA 02215-1394

Attendees of the 2009 Boston Regional will enjoy a special Saturday appearance by Blue Man Group

For more information, see http://bostonfirst.org/

Follow the competition on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bostonfirst

*Description of competition from FIRST web site http://bostonfirst.org