KHS Robotics

Action during the 2018 robotics competition held at Kennett High School. More than 35 teams are expected to compete this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (LISA EASTWOOD PHOTO)

CONWAY — Kennett High School will host the ninth annual MWV Regional VEX robotics competition in the Peter Ames Gymnasium Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The event is organized by Kennett High students along with MWV FIRST.

Admission is free to Saturday's competition.

Over 35 teams from high schools and middle schools in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire are expected to compete, battling each other with robots created from the VEX Robotics Design System.

The competition is a test of skill, strategy and team effort.

The 2019-20 VEX Robotics Competition is “Tower Takeover,” which, according to the VEX website, “is played on a 12’x12’ square field. Two Alliances — one “red” and one “blue” — composed of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period, followed by a 1:45 driver-controlled period. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by placing cubes in towers or scoring cubes in goals.

The Kennett Coders coaches are Dan Richardi and Joe Riddensdale with mentors Laura Glassover, Paul Kirsch and Ron Sandstrom. More than 30 local students are involved in the program.

“Robotics is thriving,” Virginia Schrader, director of the MWV Career and Technical Center, told the Conway School Board at its meeting on Monday. “This Saturday, we’re hosting the MWV Regional VEX robotics competition at Kennett High School. It’s an all-day event that starts at 9 a.m. Schools come from all over New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. If you’ve never been before it’s really an exciting event.”

She added: “The field that they’re competing in this year (Tower Takeover) is really complex, very different than it has ever been. If you’re around on Saturday we’d love to have you. I would definitely invite you to come.”

While the main event takes place in the gymnasium, Schrader said teams gather in the cafeteria to prepare for the competition. There is a friendly rivalry among the competitors but they also, “work out quirks. It’s interesting to see all these teams from different schools work together to solve problems. They use each other as sounding boards.”

Last April, the Kennett Coders’ Robotics Team 5106C, ”Checkmate,” led by Kennett High School Juniors Chani Mores and Kate Keefe, with support from sophomore Miguel Kirsch, added a chapter to the storied history of the program when they placed eighth in the world for their impressive performance at the World Robotics Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

Schrader broke some bad news to the board.

“Our No. 1 robot 5106C won’t be there on Saturday because of conflicts of schedules,” she said. “We’re 100 percent positive 5106C will make it to the worlds again this year.”

“Is 5106C like going somewhere else,” asked Joe Lentini, chair of the school board.

“We’re hiding him, we don’t want the competition to see him,” said a smiling Kennett High Principal Kevin Carpenter.

“Checkmate will be in its room with its operators,” Schrader said. “Not on school property.”

VEX competitions are the fastest-growing competitive robotics programs for elementary, middle and high schools and colleges, with nearly 20,000 teams from 45 countries participating in more than 1,500 competitions worldwide. The competition season culminates each spring with the VEX Robotics World Championship.

Competing in the Worlds for the sixth time in seven years has given KHS international exposure and experience.

“We have a great group of students,” Riddensdale said. “We also encourage the public to come and see what this is all about. I think they’ll enjoy themselves.”

The Coders are still actively recruiting teammates for the 2019-2020 team. Students who will be in grades 9-12 are encouraged to join. The team is recruiting students who have curiosity, interest and aptitude in computer programming and/or in mechanical building design. You can learn more about Kennett Coders and contact the team on Facebook at KennettCoders5106 or on Instagram kennettcoders or contact Kennett High School.

The Coders are supported by SAU-9, Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council, Kiwanis, Rotary clubs, Top Notch Rentals, RLSAND Inc. and through donations from individuals. Without support from these local organizations, businesses and individuals, Kennett Coders would not exist.

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