Fundraising for Fitch High School robotics team takes a big step forward

Groton - Thames Valley Communications and Groton Utilities became a platinum sponsor of the Fitch High School robotics team, the Aluminum Falcons, earlier this week.

Mayor Marian Galbraith, who also chairs the Utility Commission, and Rich De Lorenze of TVC, presented a $1,000 check Tuesday to head coach Brian Chidley and the 30 members of the Fitch robotics team.

"Our team has grown tremendously over the past few years, and along with great aspirations comes a great big budget," Chidley said in a press release. "Our goal this year was to raise $25,000 for the 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition. Groton Utilities, Thames Valley Communication will bring us significantly closer to our goal."

Chidley said the team pays about $4,000 to compete in regional competitions in Hartford and New York City in March, and would need to pay an additional $5,000, plus lodging, to go to the April national championships in St. Louis, Mo., should it qualify.

"The kids are so invested in the program," Galbraith said. "I just think it's nice to help kids that are building skills that are going to support innovation in the future."

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization centered around nurturing a passion for science, engineering, technology and math in young people, according to its mission statement at

www.usfirst.org.

FIRST was founded more than 20 years ago by inventor Dean Kamen and puts on national and international robotics and other science, technology and engineering-based competitions.

On its website, FIRST bills itself as the hardest fun a young person could ever have, the most rewarding adventure a coach mentor or volunteer could ever undertake, and for sponsors, the most enlightened investment they could ever make.

Chidley said students are preparing for their "build" season, which begins in January, when FIRST sends them their kit and the task the robot will be expected to perform during the competition.

"Some students are working on their CAD (Computer Aided Design) skills," Chidley said. "Others have to learn programming. They'll write the program we'll use."

The Falcons will host a pancake breakfast fundraiser on Dec. 3 at Union Baptist Church in Mystic as well as a silent auction of products and services from local businesses.

The team has not decided on a name for the 2012 robot, but the team name has a famous history.

"Aluminum Falcon" was plucked from a late-night television spoof on the Star Wars series in which Han Solo had a starship, Millennium Falcon, that was destroyed. When Darth Vader calls the emperor with the news, the emperor shouts into the phone, "What the hell is an aluminum falcon?"

Alas, it is the Fitch robotics team. To donate to the team, contact Chidley at the school, at (860) 449-7200.

c.potter@theday.com

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