By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Whether it is a Fortune 500 company, a social club or organization, a school district, or a sports team, the concept of team-building has proven to be a worthwhile endeavor. Seminars, golf outings, retreats, and motivational speakers are often used in team-building. Or, a group of individuals could go into a dark room wearing protective vests and carrying plastic guns to shoot each other to score points.
That’s what the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School robotics team did at an evening of laser tag at Marlborough’s APEX Entertainment Center in preparation for the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition which begins in January.
“As soon as I saw the APEX Entertainment Center open in the spring, I knew that we would find a team-building opportunity to combine the ‘veterans’ on the team with the freshmen and other new members, and to get them to realize that working together is what this group is all about,” explained mentor Kristine Fletcher.
Added mentor Heather Martel: “We wanted something challenging, involving teamwork, but also to emphasize the fun, too.”
The students took turns throughout the hour-long session, mixing up the teams each time. There was also time for a few arcade games, and, of course, several took advantage of the Pit Stop Pub food before they left.
“This was a way to welcome our new team members, get to learn everyone’s name and laugh together,” commented Isla Ramirez, a student from Hudson.
Added Eduarda Gomes, from Marlborough: “It was making memories together so that when things get stressful during the build season, we can look back and remember how much fun we had together.”
Assabet has been a part of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), since the program’s inception in 1993. The premise of FIRST is to get high school students excited about careers in STEM by pairing them with adult mentors from industry to conceptualize, design, build, program and learn to drive a remote-controlled robot to complete specific tasks. The challenge changes from year to year, is announced in January, and the robot must be complete by mid-February.
The AZTECHS have fared well for a quarter century, bringing home many medals and honors, while sending most team members on to further education in STEM fields.
“I started on the team as an Assabet student in 1997 and have never left,” explained AZTECHS Project Manager Marcus Fletcher. “I continued as a mentor throughout college, eventually got hired by the school…. Once you see how this hooks kids into thinking that STEM is fun and rewarding and watch them go off to become contributing members of society, it is tough to walk away….[The laser tag outing] was another good way to have them bond and get ready for the January kick-off to the season.”
The team also does community outreach events and will be holding a Food Drive outside of the Hudson Stop and Shop, 10 Technology Drive, on Sunday, Nov. 11.