“I can’t beat you in a race, but I can build a robot that can beat you,” Alice Willette likes to tell people.

While Willette admits she doesn’t have the best athletic ability, she thrives in her love for building robots and spends her time on the robotics team.

Willette started with Lego Robotics in fourth grade. By the time she got to eighth grade, she could build, program and compete with the robots.

Now, she’s set to attend the University of Maine at Orono to major in mechanical engineering with a concentration on aerospace. She has a goal to send her robots and other creations into space.

“In fourth grade, I wanted to be an astronaut, but I realized, I don’t want to go into space myself, but make the things that go into space,” she said.

At Waterville High School, where Willette will graduate this month, she is co-president of the school’s Queer Alliance, Green Team and second vice president for the class of 2024.


Senior Alice Willette, seen May 22 outside of Waterville Senior High School, loves building robots and plans to attend the University of Maine where she can study aerospace and mechanical engineering.  Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

With all her success, Willette said it did not always come easy.

She was diagnosed with phonological processing disorder in fifth grade when her teachers noticed that her English and spelling were lacking. Willette said the processing disorder is like dyslexia but with spelling words.

“I’ve learned how to become an advocate for myself around my teachers and adults, which has been hard to overcome, but it’s taught me to be a better communicator in a way that works for my brain,” she said.

After she graduates from the University of Maine — which she said she will attend in part because of the lower cost compared to her other school choice, Worcester Polytechnic Institute — she sees herself coming back to Maine for “a little bit.”

And, after seeing the University of Maine’s engineering lab, she knew it was for her.

“From a young age, I knew what I wanted to do and when you are little, you don’t always understand the implications of going into debt, or taking on debt,” she said. “That was another thing, that when I graduate in 2028, I will be debt free.”

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