THE TEAM poses with the robot following the end of a successful day at the North Shore competition.



MHS student

MELROSE — During the weekend of March 19 – 20, the Melrose iRaiders robotics team participated in the North Shore First Robotics Competition (FRC) in Reading. This event marked the first official competition since the beginning of the pandemic. There was much excitement among both mentors and students. FRC is a high energy, sport-like environment where 39 teams meet and bring their unique robots to compete against each other.

The event was a great success for the iRaiders. The team ranked 9th out of 39 teams, making this the best event in all of the iRaiders’ history. With a total of six wins, the iRaiders reached quarterfinals, while also being the 6th Seat Alliance Captain. The team had an outstandingly positive attitude — both on the field and in the audience. The driving team, in charge of controlling the robot during the competition matches, consisted of four students: Brennan Cesar, Tina Chen, Addy Hickey and Kate Urchuk. The four of them represented the team on the field and worked together to drive the robot through its tasks like shooting balls and climbing.

“We had really good communication right from the start,” Cesar said. “I’d be driving, Kate would help me locate the balls, Tina would help orchestrate it all and keep us in pace, and Addy would help —if there’s anything we couldn’t reach — she’d be our second set of eyes to help find it… I think together we worked really well.”

This year, the iRaiders also began a scouting team led by Peter Story. Thanks to the scouting team, they were able to effectively strategize each qualification match and pick which robots had skills that best complemented the iRaiders’ robot. All student members contributed and helped the team achieve success. Behind the scenes, students completed system checks between matches to ensure the robot would be in its best condition for driving. Judges also visited the pit crew and asked tough questions about both the team’s robot and impact on their community. With help from team captain Brigid McCarron and the pit crew, the iRaiders received the Judge’s Award. This is a distinguished award given to teams who have not only done an exceptional job constructing the robot, but who have also given to their community.

Starting the summer of 2021, the iRaiders visited elementary schools across the Melrose district to once again revive the First Lego League (FLL) program geared at getting kids in grades four through eight interested in robotics. With tremendous effort, the iRaiders spread the robotics message of exploration and innovation across many elementary students and grew their three FLL teams to an amazing total of nine teams. Another highlight has been the iRaiders support for the Melrose Alliance Against Violence. Earlier in the fall, the team participated in the annual MAAV walk and vigil, not only to show support, but to also bring awareness of the issue and educate team members on how to help others subject to violence.

“I find it really important that we build up STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) knowledge and encourage robotics education from a young age,” McCarron said. “That way, students feel confident and inspired to pursue these fields in the future. It’s been really great to see these students engage in these programs and see our own team members being able to use their knowledge to help teach these kids.”

The iRaiders work to inspire young Melrose students in STEM. They support and contribute to local organizations and alliances within the Melrose community. The iRaiders’ unique efforts, performance, and dynamics met both within the team and the greater community is inspiring to many. They exemplify how hard work, preparation, and perseverance can together overcome the many obstacles while also motivating surrounding communities in STEM.

The team is excited to participate in the upcoming district competition. This event will take place from March 31 – April 2 at Portsmouth, N.H. Look forward to results and updates from the iRaiders at this event!