Stephen Darling - 7th Grader from Barnard

Competes at FIRST Robotics Championship in Detroit 

​April 26, 2018

Stephen Darling, a 7th grader from Barnard is a part of the 17 member team representing all of Vermont and competing in the FIRST Robotics championship. The competition is being held this week in Detroit. The Vermont team has members from a variety of schools from around the Upper Valley.

Congratulations Stephen!

A source close to Stephen says he attributes his start in robotics and computer programming to Barnard Academy technology teacher Eileen Vaughn and science teacher Nancy Boymer.

Here are a couple of key points about the competition as published in an article in the Detroit News.

  • Detroit is hosting the competition for the first time and will continue hosting it in 2019 and 2020.

  • The event is expected to attract more than 40,000 people and bring $30 million to the state economy of Michigan.

  • Students from 25 states and 45 countries are participating in the competition.

  • There are 3 levels of competition. FIRST Robotics, ages 14 – 18; FIRST Tech Challenge, ages 12 – 18; FIRST Lego League, ages 9 – 16.

You can see that for Stephen, Barnard’s small elementary school was the incubator for his interest in technology and robotics. The good news is that many students develop lifelong interests and passions in their small elementary schools, particularly when nurtured by caring teachers who have the time to work with and encourage the students in their small classes.

As of this writing, the governor of Vermont, certain members of the state legislature, and others are trying to do 2 things. One; close many small elementary schools.  Two; find $30 million to fill a Vermont budget deficit.

Can this be? Close down the schools that we see are incubating the homegrown talent that can bring big dollars into the state? Say it ain’t so;  because it surely makes no sense!

One other irony is the FIRST Robotics was co-founded by Dean Kamen, famed inventor whose company, DEKA is located in Manchester, NH. Taking a moment to dream; wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Vermont had won the bid to host the competition?

Or better yet, what if Vermont applied a bit of effort to foster something like FIRST Robotics (please, no carbon copies of FIRST). There are plenty of other opportunities to develop such win-win-win programs. That is; the students win, Vermont citizens win, and yes even the politicians win. But it all starts with the willingness to make it happen and a strong spirit of cooperation​!

Any politicians ​listening?

Watch LIVE coverage of the FIRST Robotics competition. The competition goes on through Saturday, April 28th, 2018.

Link to LIVE coverage,

Link to Detroit News story,

Link to Crain’s Detroit story 

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