Spruce Mountain High School student Lily Bailey, right, talks about her role on Blue Crew FIRST Robotics Competition Team 6153 Thursday night during the Regional School Unit 73 board of directors meeting in the Spruce Mountain Middle School cafeteria in Jay. The high school students joined the Farmington-based team last year and received permission Thursday to attend out-of-state events. Other members, from left rear, are Mason Labonte from Spruce Mountain, Emily Hammond from Mt. Blue High School in Farmington and Megan Craig from Spruce Mountain. Members Ava Coates and Daniel Wilson, not pictured, are Spruce Mountain High School student representatives to the board. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — Regional School Unit 73 directors granted permission Thursday night for Spruce Mountain High School students in the FIRST Robotics Competition to attend out-of-state contests and events.

The school had an active and successful robotics team prior to the retirement of adviser Daniel Lemieux in 2020. Blue Crew, a FIRST Robotics Competition team from Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington, invited students and mentors from Spruce Mountain High School to join its team last year.

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST Robotics Competition is an international high school robotics program that combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology, according to the FIRST Robotics Competition website.

“We are very much a team-led team,” Rob Taylor, a teacher at the high school and one of the mentors told the board when introducing head mentor Richard Wilde from Mt. Blue High School.

Wilde has been head mentor for the Blue Crew team since its inception in 2016. That year, the team won the All-Star Rookie Award for the best new team at the FIRST New England District meet in Providence, Rhode Island. The team was also chosen to be part of the meet’s winning alliance.

“I always knew that we had a pretty good team, I knew the Spruce Mountain team,” Wilde said. “What I was really unprepared for was what happened when you combined the two teams. What they were able to accomplish last year was more than either one of our previous teams had done.


“We would not have been able to accomplish what we did last year without them joining us,” Wilde said

Emily Hammond from Mt. Blue High School said this is her second year as captain and the second time she has appeared before the RSU 73 board.

“Last year we accepted Spruce students and it was one of the best decisions we ever made for our team,” she said. “That year, although we only had a few Spruce Mountain members, they made such a huge impact for our team.”

Ava Coates, a student representative on the RSU 73 board, helped write the Chairman’s Report that won the Chairman’s Award for the team, Hammond noted. “That got us to go and attend the New Englands where we were also able to qualify for the world competition, which is something that our team has not done since 2016,” she said. “We are aiming to make it that far once again, we have very high hopes.”

The size of the team has doubled from about 16 last year to more than 30 this year, Hammond said. “We are absolutely thrilled to have you all being able to see what we are accomplishing here and we are so excited to kick off this season,” she added.

The team has been working on the Chairman’s Report, which shows the team’s impact on the community, said Megan Craig from Spruce Mountain High School. “Some examples we included in the Chairman’s Report is how we are helping two schools start teams for next year,” she noted. “We also hosted the first normal FIRST LEGO League State Championship at our high school” since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Those and many other things could help win the Chairman’s Award, Craig added.

Spruce Mountain High School student Lily Bailey is the team’s entrepreneurship captain. “I handle all of the finances,” she said. “We have about $5,000 in our budget currently for costs for things like competitions, robot parts, stuff like that.

“I am working on our Entrepreneur’s Report, which I am basically revising from last year. It’s complete with a SWOT analysis, which is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We have included as an opportunity our merging with Spruce because as Emily said, that has doubled our team. We started as of last year with five members, then we went to 16 members and now we are at 31. That is absolutely amazing.”

One weakness of the team is training team members, as not all are veterans and training members can be hard, Bailey said. “We are trying to get around that this year,” she added.

Spruce Mountain team member Mason Labonte listed the out-of-state competitions the team plans to attend:

March 3-5, New England District Southeast Massachusetts in Bridgewater, Massachusetts


March 25-26, New England District, University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire.

April 5-8, New England FIRST District Championship in West Springfield, Massachusetts

April 19-22, FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas

The latter two are by invitation only, Labonte said. The team is hoping to compete successfully at other events and earn that right, he noted.

“We have also been working on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) room downstairs at the middle school, said Daniel Wilson, RSU 73 student representative to the board and robotics member. “We were able to get $30,000 of equipment from the state of Maine. We have a lot of LEGO League kits, we have been assisting middle schoolers and maybe even younger with learning how to use them and coding, and we’ve also set up merge cubes down there.”

Wilson has also been working on setting up some 3D printers in the room to teach students how to use those.


STEM carts were provided to the four Spruce Mountain schools, Taylor said. “The state sent us 46 LEGO League kits,” he noted. “They are $500 each, that’s $23,000 worth of LEGOs. Middle School Principal Kristofer) Targett found a space for them downstairs underneath the gym, he said. “We are making it into a STEM room. We have got teachers and faculty working on it but also the robotics kids are helping us to make that place a reality.”

Students from Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls attend Spruce schools. The primary school is in Livermore. The elementary, middle and high schools are in Jay.

In his report, Chris Hollingsworth, the curriculum coordinator and IT director, said the room would be named Spruce Mountain Imagineering Program. It will be more than STEM, a resource for anyone to use, he added.

Director Joel Pike, who is also a team mentor, made the motion to approve out-of-state travel and asked that an event Feb. 18 also be included. The team is on a wait list for it, he said.

After this year’s robot is finished, it will be brought for directors to see, Wilde said. The next version of R2Blue2, the team’s mascot, is also being developed. “I’ll bring him over as well so you can see him,” he added.

Comments are no longer available on this story