Rosie Robotics builds for the future

4/6/2017 | Payton North

Category: April 2017

The team prepares Rosie for her next match by the team with mentor Tim Gaynor watching.
Reminder Publications submitted photo

Founded in 2002 by Dana Henry and the late John Burns, Agawam's Rosie Robotics team has been building character and building their way through competitions across the U.S. for the past 15 years.

Agawam features several robotics teams, starting from kindergarten all the way through high school. The teams encompass 150 students as well as nearly 50 parent mentors.  While the teams are considered an after school activity, high school students do receive a half a credit toward graduation.  The high school Rosie team features 16 students.  Last year, 12 members of the team graduated, leaving the team down in numbers.  

At the start of each year, the team endures a six-week building period followed by a series of competitions. Weighing in on the competition, co-founder Dana Henry said, “First Robotics has the kickoff, the unveiling of the design challenge in January. Then teams have until mid-February, six weeks later, to design, build, and bag, if you will.  Then they have to stop work, they have to put their machine in a bag and stop working with a serialized tag on it.”

There are 3,300 teams who compete among one another with the goal of being invited to the World Championship in St. Louis, MO.  Each team receives the same box of parts, has the same rules, and is allowed to spend up to $4,000 in additional raw materials and machine services.  “Basically, there's 3,300 teams all trying to do the same thing, and there's 3,300 different ways of doing it.  No two robots are going to be the same,” Henry added.

New England contains 195 robotics teams. Each team competes in two competitions against 40 different teams.  Rosie competed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass. on March 8 to 10, and again in Hartford, CT at Hartford Public High School on March 31 to April 2.  Based on Rosie's on-field and off-field performance they're given points toward potentially attending the District Championship at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. “We've been [to the World Championships] three times in our lifetime, the most recent was last year.  We didn't win it, but they qualified for it,” Henry says.

While some students are rookie members on the Rosie team this year, others have been involved since elementary school. Nathan Blain, 17, a senior at Agawam High School is Technical Co-Captain of the team.  He's been apart of the program for nine years, starting in fourth grade.  “At first I was really intrigued because it was like ‘robots!’ Especially as a young kid, I really wanted to get into that.  Also my parents helped back me up by becoming a mentor, now both my parents are mentors for the team, so that really helps,” Blain said.

Brianna Gaynor, 16, a junior is non-technical co-captain of the Rosie team and has been involved for the past three years.  “I'm in charge of talking to all of our sponsors, getting the word out to the community about all of our upcoming fundraisers, doing all of the award essays, talking with all of the judges,” Gaynor said.

Going in to a competition can bring up nerves – both excitement and nervousness.  Gaynor said, “It's definitely a different feel this year knowing that I get the chance to talk to judges.  Last year it was, 'Oh it's going to be fun,' which it's so fun, but it's definitely more the nervous feeling this year.”

Blain added, “I'm always excited to go to competitions just because you finally get to see all your hard work is paying off, but at the same time you're nervous to make sure everything is going to work or if it's going to work right.”

While Dana Henry is co-founder of Rosie, he's also president and CEO of the Agawam Robotics Education Association, a 501(c)(3) that helps to fund and organize the program.  The team is also actively looking for more engineering mentors and sponsorships.  For more information on the Rosie team, head over to

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